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County approves Mount Hood group's four-year effort to go before voters this spring

For four years, members of the Hoodland community have organized in an effort to create a parks district. On Feb. 3, the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners decided the effort would move forward and become a ballot measure in the May 2022 election.

"We're excited the parks district is going to be on the May ballot," said committee member Marci Slater.

"It's exciting to have gotten this far with the petition," committee member Regina Lythgoe added. "Everyone's worked so hard and stayed organized."

Clackamas County certified the parks district committee's petition to put the measure on the ballot in December 2021, recognizing 986 signatures, 193 signatures more than needed for certification.

The parks district effort was initiated after Clackamas County made a deal with the Hoodland Women's Club, the initial trustee of the project. The club had until November 2020, according to a memorandum of understanding, to find a use for the site of the old Dorman Center — or else the county would sell the property.

This effort is now being led by a parks district-specific committee and no longer under the umbrella of the Hoodland Women's Club, though club members remain on the committee.

The proposed use is to revive the old community hub as a park and also establish a parks district to help pay for maintenance and creation of future public park lands. The land designated for the park consists of three parcels, all on Salmon River Road. That includes the former Dorman Center at 3.97 acres, 5 acres on the other side of the Oregon Department of Transportation road gravel storage, and an 11-acre strip beyond Birdie Lane.

The estimated tax rate would be 67 cents per $1,000 of assessed value of property within the district. People within the park district would not have to pay to use its facilities.

The district was originally proposed to exist within the boundaries of the Hoodland Fire District, spreading from Government Camp to Summertime Road at Alder Creek, but members of the Government Camp Community Planning Organization (CPO) opposed being included in the boundaries at the Jan. 6 county hearing about the district effort.

"We were getting a lot of second-home owners, I think, from Government Camp CPO," Lythgoe said. "I believe the proposed property tax of .67 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for the HPD will not all have to be collected each year. We can keep the annual property tax under that amount by utilizing available grants and low interest loans that only available to park districts. Once elected, the board of directors will be hearing public input for park services and funding. If elected to the HPD board, I will work to keep our tax base as low as possible."

Now the proposed district will stop around Kiwanis Camp Road, just east of Rhododendron. Fortunately, for the committee and potential tax-payers, this has not changed the estimated tax rate.

"We did our homework and determined with the land the county is giving us, and initial planning, we'll be OK without the Government Camp revenue," Slater explained.

The next steps for the committee and parks district effort are for the county and committee to determine exact new boundaries for the district and then for the committee to campaign to gather votes before May 17.

"The next step is to get people to open up their ballots and vote," Slater added. "I'm just so excited to see (the district) get to this point. This will be the easier part for me, talking about this great opportunity for the community. Then it'll just be up to our community to decide. It'll be great to see this conversation open up in the community."

Also on the ballot will be positions on the board to lead the district. Those interested in running to be a board member on the five-member committee must file before March 8 to be included on the ballot. The county is currently processing the proposed ballot measure and will assign a ballot measure number to the effort by Feb. 25, so interested parties may have to wait to file until after that date. The committee is hoping people from not only Welches but Sleepy Hollow, Brightwood, Rhododendron, Wemme and Zigzag will file.

"The board will have the task, at least for the first year, of finding funding for the district, setting up bylaws and following state statutes," Slater explained. "It'll be a very big job. They'll have to be very dedicated."

While one big hope for the district is to one day build some kind of community center, Lythgoe said "there are a lot of opportunities to work with the school district to offer more park (amenities)."

"Maybe with a parks district we could bring in lots of programs to meet the needs in the community of people of all ages," Lythgoe explained. "It would be great to get people back together with programs. We've been having fun with this. It all comes from the heart. Hopefully people will see that they'll get something out of this, too."

"I'd love people to keep their eyes open in the paper, social media and on the website for rallies in the next few months," Slater added.

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