Consultant will help gauge support of Tigard rec program

Tigard residents jealous of the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District in Beaverton may soon get their wish. The city of Tigard is in the early stages of starting a parks and recreation district of its own.

The plan is still in the very early stages, said Troy Mears, chairman of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

“Recreation has always been a passion of the (board),” Mears said. “I’d be wrong to say it wasn’t something we all view as important.”

For years, the board has been tasked with advising the City Council on park and recreation opportunities for the city, but for the past three years, the board has been focused on purchasing several new parks, after voters approved a $17 million bond measure in 2010.

But with money for new parkland nearly spent, the city has set up a team of employees, volunteers and elected officials to investigate a potential parks department or district.

The city plans to hire a consultant to help plan for a possible recreation department sometime during the next few months, Mears said.

“We are looking at every different angle and option,” Mears said. “If we do move forward, we don’t want it to fail.”

Just what an eventual recreation department would look like remains uncertain. Mears said, the group has come up with a list of basic questions for the consultant to help them answer.

“Does Tigard have the facilities to accommodate a recreation department?” asked Mears. “Are the demographics there to support recreation? Does it need to be a tax-based recreation program?”

“We’re just trying to get it off the ground,” Mears added. “By having some direction and getting somebody with experience with this, it will help us define how we move forward.”

Any eventual parks and recreation district or recreation department would likely require a public bond to get started.

City Councilor Marc Woodard, a strong proponent of a rec district, suggested during Tuesday’s council meeting that the board go out for the bond during a presidential election when voter turnout is traditionally higher.

“If you do it in (a special election), it’s a different group of voters,” Woodard told board members.

‘Need support of the city’

The city has toyed with the idea for years, establishing a “recreation finder” on the city’s website and surveying voters about whether they would support some sort of recreational program run by the city.

“One question we would have is, what are folks wanting that they aren’t provided now?” said Brian Rager, the city’s assistant public works director. “What is the best delivery solution — is it the city or another provider?”

Mears said the city is taking inspiration from similar-sized cities across the state.

Springfield, near Eugene, has only a few thousand people more than Tigard and has had its own special recreation district since the 1940s.

“That is a great success story,” Mears said. “We’d like to follow them.”

One question that is still to be asked is whether Tigard residents are interested in a recreation program by the city.

“We’d like to see it, but we need the support of the city,” Mears said.

If a recreation department or special district is formed, the hardest part will be getting it up and running, Mears said.

“Right now, we don’t have a lot of the things to help provide a recreation district or department with programming,” Mears said.

Mears said that, to date, the only recreational facility owned and operated by the city is the Tigard Public Library.

“One of the biggest hurdles is facilities and buildings,” he said.

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