By JESSE BURKHARDT
Nine candidates signed on to compete for five seats on the board of the proposed Mount Adams Park & Recreation District.
However, these would-be board members will serve only if area voters approve two ballot measures to create and fund the park and recreation district, which encompasses a wide area from White Salmon and Bingen to Lyle, Klickitat, Trout Lake, Husum, Snowden, Appleton, BZ Corner, Glenwood, and Dallesport.
If the measure is approved, the winning members would form the initial board to guide the recreational district's decisions.
Candidates on the ballot include: Cheryl Steindorf (Klickitat) vs. Shane Hearn (White Salmon) for Pos. 1; Stephanie Irving (Trout Lake) is unopposed for Pos. 2; Marcia Buser (Lyle), Michael Solbach (Lyle), and Meghann Dallin (Bingen) are competing for Pos. 3; Dana Scheffler (White Salmon) vs. Vern Harpole (Lyle) in Pos. 4; and Hugh Whitson (White Salmon) is unopposed for Pos. 5.
Although her name is on the ballot, Dallin has withdrawn from the race. (See sidebar on this page.)
Approval of the district would require a "Yes" vote on two separate measures on the Nov. 2 ballot.
The text of the two questions on the Nov. 2 general election ballot will be as follows: "Shall a park and recreation district to be known as the Mount Adams Park & Recreation District lying within the boundaries and areas of the following Klickitat County school districts: Trout Lake, Glenwood, Klickitat, Lyle, and White Salmon Valley be formed ... -- Yes or No."
To pay for the district, there will be an eight cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation levied on those within the district.
That levy will be a separate ballot measure, as follows: "Shall the Mount Adams Park & Recreation District be authorized to impose regular property tax levies in the amount of eight cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for each of six consecutive years beginning in 2011 for that district's initial capital or operational costs? -- Yes or No."
In order to give voters a better understanding of the contested candidates in the park district races and why they are running, we attempted to contact the seven individuals who face opponents for their respective positions on the Nov. 2 ballot. We received responses from four of the candidates.
Vern Harpole of Lyle said he believes a parks and recreation district would be great for the community.
"It is a chance for the communities to be treated like real towns," Harpole said. "The Mount Adams Park & Recreation District (MAPARD) is needed because there is no other way the unincorporated towns of western Klickitat County will ever get a financially and legally recognized status to do any local development. With MAPARD, they will have the ability to get a small revenue that is exclusively theirs to fund community development. They will also qualify for private grants and state and federal government programs to match and/or add to their base."
Harpole added that he believes the most pressing reason to create the MAPARD is to improve the health of county residents.
"I have been a physician for 35 years and witnessed the horrible epidemic of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, due in large part to our sedentary lifestyle," Harpole explained. "Rural places like Klickitat County have particularly high rates of these problems, plus all the social problems of isolation and `nothing to do.' Creating this district is an absolutely needed antidote to the poison of this epidemic, keeping us healthier and happier, lowering our bills to hospitals and jails!"
Harpole is facing off against Dana Scheffler, one of the organizers of the effort to create a local parks and recreation district.
Scheffler said he sees the district as an effort to provide recreational programs to all residents in the area.
"I think the primary purpose of the district is to work concurrently with all of the communities of the district, to develop plans for improving or creating local access to recreational programs and facilities," Scheffler said. "Further, it is to use the `seed money' generated from the eight-cent levy to bring in private contributions from foundations and grant organizations to capitalize projects. Larger, long-term goals like building a year-round pool is going to take some time to plan well and secure the grants and donations that will pay for the construction."
Scheffler, a White Salmon resident, added that those supporting the district are non-partisan.
"The Formation Committee is made up of Republicans, Democrats, and people who are neither or both," Scheffler said. "There are people from the timber industry, local business owners, retired seniors, and parents with young children."
Cheryl Steindorf, a Klickitat resident, said she believes the district is needed because county tax dollars do not go toward these resources.
"I believe that if you want a healthy community you will have to invest in a wide variety of healthy recreational opportunities for families to enjoy," Steindorf said. "Recreation can be a vital piece of the economy of Klickitat County."
Steindorf, who is competing with White Salmon's Shane Hearn for a seat on the five-member board, said she believes she would be effective at consensus-building.
"I have the ability to bring stakeholders together to find common ground and work toward community goals," Steindorf explained.
Harpole added that the purpose of the district goes far beyond building a new swimming pool/aquatic center in the White Salmon area.
"White Salmon/Bingen will get a good start toward accumulating seed money for the pool, which they can build on with donations/grants, etc.," Harpole said. "The other communities will get their proportion to start local projects. There will be some money held to be used to coordinate sports leagues, coaches, etc., for all the towns of the MAPARD."