For years, the Canby Area Parks and Recreation District has wanted to shrink. It is a common goal this time of year — what with New Year’s resolutions and all that. But CAPRD is not looking to lose weight for swimsuit season. They want to shed voters.
CAPRD is a government entity with elected officers and a long history, but with no permanent source of funding, and therefore, little in the way of operations or assets.
It was originally created in 1964 as the South Clackamas Parks and Recreation District, an obvious counterpart to the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District. But, unlike NCPRD, South Clackamas was never able to pass a permanent property tax to fund parks or programming.
Its main business — at least, in view of the public — over the past six decades has been changing its name: first to the Blue Heron Recreational District, and now, CAPRD (often prounounced “CAP-perd”).
Dissolving the district has also been discussed at various times throughout its history, but it’s still here. And last week, two of the elected representatives of CAPRD (Don Morgan and Andrew Hale) were at the Canby City Council meeting to discuss their latest plans for moving forward.
Morgan explained that the district has tried, at least five or six times, to pass a permanent tax rate. The most recent was in 2011, a proposed 42-cent per $1,000 assessed value that would have also replaced the levy for the Canby Swim Center that goes before voters for renewal every five years.
It failed, with more than 60 percent opposed. In hindsight, the timing may have been ill-advised, with the nation well into the early stages of a historic downturn, but Morgan said the margins of defeat have been pretty consistent in each election, regardless of economic factors.
The issue, he believes, lies with CAPRD’s boundaries, which mirror those of the Canby School District. The population of that area is some 35,000 souls — twice the size of the city limits of Canby.
Though spreading the tax burden over a larger population would mean everyone pays less, the voters in the unincorporated areas have been a stumbling block for the district’s attempts to pass a tax base.
“People in the county, outside the city limits, say ‘no,'” Morgan said. “People in the city are a lot more in favor of it. … You aren’t going to get anywhere, in our opinion, until you reduce the size of the district.”
The decision to shrink the district’s boundaries ultimately lies with the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, which oversees CAPRD. Morgan said his board approached them with a petition in April, and commissioners encouraged the district to seek the approval of the city council and Canby Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee first.
At the time, the county was in the midst of a raging battle with the city of Happy Valley over its withdrawal from the NCPRD (recently settled), and commissioners may have understandably been a little gun shy about the possibility of another city/parks district dispute.
Councilors seemed interested in the discussion, though no decisions were made last week. Mayor Brian Hodson suggested that they proceed with a work session early next year that included “history lessons” on CAPRD’s background, for the benefit of some of the newer council members.
Photo courtesy VisitCanby.com.
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