If they build it and you helped pay for it, can you use it? Wilsonville looks to school sports facilities in counting inventory of sports resources

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The City of Wilsonville is set to evaluate school sports facillities and could try to negotiate a joint-use agreement with the West Linn-Wilsonville School District. During recent talks with consultant GreenPlay LLC. and Parks and Recreation staff about the City's current allotment of sports facilities, Wilsonville city councilors and staff discussed evaluating local school fields and possibly negotiating a joint-use agreement as part of the Parks and Recreation Master Planning process.

Wilsonville spent $4.5 million for the construction of the Boones Ferry Primary School site and its urban renewal agency contributed over $1 million to pay for artificial turfing, baseball fields and other facilities at Wilsonville High, which were acknowledged in the previous joint use agreement.Council President Scott Starr indicated at the work session that the City's investments in Wilsonville schools could bolster its negotiating position for a future agreement.

To complete an inventory of fields in City-owned and district-owned facilities (which would include fields and gymnasiums), the City postponed the planning commission's public hearing for the plan by 60 days — to Aug .8 — and will keep the record open for additional testimony until then. Following that date, the commission could then recommend a plan and then City Council would decide whether to adopt it.

"I don't see how we can decide whether we're deficient or not and I don't see how the school district can decide what their needs are or not if we can't both look at them all together," Councilor Charlotte Lehan said at the meeting.

After completing the inventory and assessing previous agreements, the City could attempt to renew a joint use agreement with the school district. The previous joint use agreement was established in 2004 and expired in 2011.

The extra time would also allow Mayor Tim Knapp — who was absent from the latest council meeting — to weigh in.

Starr said Wilsonville's overall supply of sports fields and access to school fields are too limited.

"There are some fields that just aren't accessible, period. And there are some courts that aren't accessible," Starr said. "I think we need to have something well spelled out so that we know exactly what it is so we know what we need to aspire to if it's too limited. And I can tell you, it's too limited."

However, West Linn-Wilsonville School District Director of Communications Andrew Kilstrom said that district-owned fields are "used constantly throughout the year" by local clubs and organizations and are especially popular during the summer months.

Former Wilsonville Little League president and current WLL coach John Carter believes Wilsonville's stock of sports fields is woefully inadequate and that a shortage of artificial turf fields, which can be used regardless of weather, is of particular concern.

"I put five years into this program (Wilsonville Little League) and lived in the community for over 11 years. It's frustrating that we live in such a beautiful town with so many great people but when you go to Sherwood, Tualatin, Canby, Newberg, they have turf fields," Carter said.

The previous joint use agreement allowed for clubs and organizations to use the school facilities outside of school hours and when school teams were not using the facilities. The City was responsible for paying administrative and custodial costs for use of the facilities on the weekends, evenings and in the summer but was exempt from paying hourly rental fees.

However, other than the Mini Hoopers basketball program, the City doesn't run its own sports programs.

"The big issue for us is that we don't operate any youth sports leagues so there's really no need to have a joint-use agreement other than to act in umbrella fashion for youth sports in the town," Cosgrove said.

According to Carter, for local organizations Memorial Park fields are more expensive than school-owned fields to use and untenable when the weather is inclement.

"They're (the Memorial Park fields) not maintained well and (not) playable when it's wet," Carter said.

Cosgrove said citizens expressed interest in adding fields during the public involvement portion of the master planning process.

"We have a growing community and a lot of folks engaged in field hockey, soccer. The demand is high and we don't always have fields and gym space that we need," Cosgrove said.

Starr also said an improved array of sports facilities could attract tourism and that Memorial Park doesn't lend itself to big tournaments and sporting events.

"You can't do what we want to do at Memorial Park because you can't get enough traffic down and back so it has to be somewhere else and I don't think the Advance Road facility (the City owns 10 acres of property near Meridian Creek Middle School that could be developed into a sports facility) is big enough to accommodate something like that," Starr said.

Wilsonville citizens pay taxes to both the City and the school district — thus increasing the importance of a more synergized union, according to Cosgrove.

"In terms of our taxpayers, they want to know that we're not providing redundant services and doing things that aren't costing them. We should be as efficient as possible," Cosgrove said.

"We have a great relationship with the school district and I don't think there would be anything insurmountable with that dialogue and do what's best for whole community."

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