Bond could add value for Sunset Rec users

Chehalem Park Recreation Center and Pool.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit with colleagues from the Chehalem Park and Recreation District, headquartered in Newberg. I was particularly excited to learn from the many successes and positive outcomes that they’ve experienced with the passing of a bond measure for the renovation of their Chehalem Aquatic and Fitness Center.

Their experiences could serve as a litmus test for the board and residents of the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District as they move forward with their own proposed expansion.

Chehalem Park and Rec was formed at roughly the same time as SEPRD in 1965 and operated. Newberg and Seaside featured a very similar population at the time of the formation of both districts, although the Newberg area has grown significantly since that time to a population of close to 23,000 today.

Chehalem Park and Recreation operated well during those first few years and featured a wide array of programs and facilities. Recognizing the need for more indoor recreation space and a desire to improve their aquatic center, the residents of the district approved a $19.9 million bond to renovate their Aquatic and Fitness Center in 2014. The voters favored the bond 62 percent to 38 percent, a strong margin.

On my visit to their new facility, which is slated to open on June 7, I was thoroughly impressed with the project scope and design. The bond funds went to the development and construction of a completely new aquatic center featuring components for every age group and every type of potential user.

Once the new aquatic center is opened, the old one — still in use until that June 7 date — will close and be converted into a fitness center. That fitness center is slated to feature many of the same amenities as those that were deemed “high priority” by district residents here in Clatsop County: indoor walking track, gymnasium space, group fitness studio and enlarged fitness room space.

I was particularly impressed with the design of the aquatic center and its goals of serving their district residents as well as the large groundswell of support that they received both before and after the bond passed.

It’s clear that there is significant positive momentum in that area and that residents had a strong desire to improve the fitness and wellness opportunities for current and future residents.

It’s no secret that the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District is preparing to ask voters to consider supporting a bond to expand facilities and provide more indoor recreation space for our residents and guests.

While I’m not at liberty to deliver anything outside of neutral information about the proposed expansion, I can deliver some of the facts regarding this project.

Fact: There is a shortage of indoor recreation space in our community. That includes gym space that is available for community use, fitness space and a controlled climate environment for walking and running during those wet months. Those are facilities that are either completely or partially unavailable currently.

Fact: While the projected cost of the expansion will likely be $16-18 million, and that’s nothing to sneeze at, similar or larger bonds have passed in other Districts throughout the state including: Springfield Bend, Beaverton, Newberg (mentioned above), Madras, Boardman, The Dalles, Hood River and others. Some cities (not special districts) have successfully passed bonds specifically for Park and Recreation facilities including Eugene and Portland.

Fact: While it’s unclear how much the expansion project will affect the taxing rate of district residents, we expect the annual tax rate to be somewhere in between $.45 to $.78 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

If the bond plays out on the lower end of the range presented, that would be an increase of $90 annually for a home with an assessed value of $200,000, or $7 monthly.

That investment would play significant dividends to the residents and guests of the districts and provide increased indoor recreation space for all the community to enjoy.

I’m impressed by the leadership and forward thinking displayed by the residents of the Chehalem Park and Recreation District and encourage each of our district residents to consider the impact that expanded community recreation space might have for this region.

Skyler Archibald is executive director of the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District.

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