By JESSE BURKHARDT
Now that western Klickitat County has the newly-minted Mount Adams Park & Recreation District (MAPARD), what has the organization been up to?
On Nov. 2, 2010, voters in a large portion of Klickitat County narrowly approved the formation of the new parks/recreation district by a final vote of 2,303 in favor (50.55 percent), with 2,253 opposed (49.45 percent).
The newly-formed district includes the communities of White Salmon, Bingen, Trout Lake, Lyle, Klickitat, Husum, Snowden, Appleton, Dallesport, BZ Corner, and Glenwood. It was created to provide a framework to support a variety of recreational activities such as hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, horseback riding, skiing, rafting, etc.
Since the election, representatives of the new parks/recreation district explained that there has not been a lot happening to date.
MAPARD Commissioner Hugh Whitson, a White Salmon resident, said the district had an "informal" first meeting in January, with the next meetings scheduled for Feb. 10 and again on Feb. 24. The meetings, which for now will be held at Skyline Hospital's Foundation office, start at 5:30 p.m. The meetings are free and open to the public.
Whitson said the organization is making progress.
"We all have to learn and understand the public meeting laws, with notice, etc.," explained Whitson. "At this point, it is pretty much the tedious portion of getting set to have a real district and run it properly."
The commissioners have elected a chairman -- Dana Scheffler, a White Salmon resident and one of the leaders of the MAPARD organizing committee.
"We have a Phase II group about to set a second meeting," added Bill Ward, a member of the district's formation committee. "We intend to assist MAPARD and set up an Article of Incorporation and a tax-exempt status."
At the same time voters approved the formation of the parks and recreation district last November, they also emphatically rejected -- by a tally of 58.5 percent-41.5 percent -- a companion ballot proposal that would have levied a property tax of eight cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation to pay for the district's operations.
As a result, how to fund the activities of the Mount Adams Park & Recreation District has become one of the hot topics for the board members.
"At the first meeting, we briefly discussed the idea of funding, for that is huge and will probably occupy most of our next few months -- the idea of trying to figure out how to develop some funding sources so we can act like a real parks and rec district," Whitson said. "Again, there will undoubtedly be many discussions and research done on that topic!"
One of the organization's top priority goals is to build a new swimming pool/aquatic center in the White Salmon area.
Ward said the organization will continue to work toward building a new aquatic center to eventually replace the aging, 1920s-era swimming pool owned by the city of White Salmon.
The need for a pool in the local community was one of the primary reasons behind the effort to form a regional parks and recreation district.
Among other organizational benefits, the creation of an official parks and recreation district allows MAPARD to apply for various grants that could help pay for a new pool, or trail enhancements, or other improvements to the county's parks and recreations facilities -- grants which otherwise would not be available.
"They can start looking at grants and going that route," explained White Salmon City Council member Bob Landgren.
Landgren also serves on the White Salmon Pool Committee. The Pool Committee works to support the city's existing swimming pool and is completely separate from MAPARD.
Landgren said the city's pool is funded for 2011, but its future is uncertain going forward. Given the funding troubles the city swimming pool has experienced, Landgren expressed hope the MAPARD would soon be able to get a new aquatic center built.
"If they can fund and build the pool, people will support it," Landgren said.
Landgren pointed out that an Olympic-sized pool, with eight lanes, is MAPARD's goal.
"Our area has enough sports that we could draw a caliber of Olympic competition to this area. If you don't have eight lanes, you won't get it," Landgren said. "What would it do for this area if we could get Michael Phelps here? And I think they could do it."
Also on the ballot in November, five MAPARD commissioners were elected to a board that will steer the district's future. But one of the commissioners elected subsequently moved from the area, and now must be replaced.
Whitson said choosing a replacement is among the topics on the MAPARD board's agenda.
"We need to work on bylaws, develop a mission statement, and appoint the fifth commissioner," Whitson said. "Not very exciting, but very necessary for a district just in its infancy stages."