Withdrawal from NCPRD – A Message from the Mayor

Have you been hearing about changes to the parks and recreation programs in the Valley? For many years, the City Council and I have been closely evaluating our partnership with the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District (NCPRD) and whether our residents are getting the level of services they deserve.

Since my time on City Council began in 2002, there has been quite a bit of change. Back then, the population was around 3,000 residents and City Hall was in a farmhouse. At the time, special districts offered services beyond what the City could provide. I want to acknowledge the work of the NCPRD staff and Board to provide parks and recreations services to a very large district, including Happy Valley, on a limited budget. However, what was good 10+ years ago may not be true any longer. Today, Happy Valley is near 19,000 and growing by over 1,000 residents each year. We are at a unique point in our history and have evolving service demands that are unique to our community.

Specific to parks and recreation, the City Council and I have been concerned that we’re out of balance. With each new development in Happy Valley, the City transfers System Development Charges (SDCs) to NCPRD to help fund a specific set of Capital Projects. For years, we have been trying to encourage NCPRD to invest in Happy Valley at an equal rate to what we contribute. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen enough progress on the projects we expected.

While the City Council had been discussing the future of parks services in Happy Valley for several years, we were eager to hear from residents. On May 16th, the City Council held a public hearing to consider withdrawing from NCPRD with the intention of providing parks and recreation services more locally. The public hearing provided an opportunity for us to hear directly from residents, many of whom served on the Happy Valley Parks Advisory Committee and the NCPRD Advisory Board.

What we heard is that our residents crave more parks facilities such as a community center, sports fields, trails, and open spaces. We couldn’t be more excited about these projects either! During the meeting, several residents expressed a concern that NCPRD hasn’t worked on any of the projects that they promised 12 years ago. Since joining the district, Happy Valley has transferred over $17.5 million in SDCs to NCPRD to fund these projects.

At the same time, we also heard a strong desire for regional partnerships, the need to protect natural habitats and watersheds, and the retention of recreational programs. As Mayor, I want to assure the residents that we heard you. In fact, this is what makes me so excited to be moving in the direction of having the City become the parks and recreation provider. First, I know we can rely on this great community to help us build a parks and recreation program that meets your needs. Second, I’m confident in our team at the City to provide a high level of service. From top to bottom: my City Council colleagues, our dedicated volunteer advisory board members, and the City staff members, we’re all committed to working towards our vision of an active community.

At our next meeting on June 6th, the City Council will formally consider an ordinance to withdraw from NCPRD. As we move forward in the withdrawal process, I’d also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to NCPRD for the programs they have provided to our community. We have disagreed at times and this is a difficult separation, but I’m hopeful we can both move forward in a positive fashion.

Over the course of the next several months, we’ll be reaching out to residents to get your feedback on what services you want in a new parks and recreation program. We’ll also need to engage the community on how to fund those services. I recognize that many of you may still have questions. I’d encourage you to read many of our frequently asked questions on the website. There is still quite a bit of work ahead and we’ll all need to work together. Stay engaged as we develop a new parks and recreation future in Happy Valley!

Lori DeRemer