County OKs Canby Area Recreation District’s Request to Shrink Boundaries

The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners last week unanimously approved a years-long effort by the Canby Area Parks and Recreation District to dramatically shrink its district boundaries in the hopes of passing a permanent tax rate.

Initially formed in July 1964 as the South Clackamas County Recreation District, the entity has gone through several names and iterations, the most recent being Canby Area Parks and Recreation District, or CAPRD, pronounced “capperd” (sort of rhymes with “scabbard”).

But in those almost six decades, the district, whose original boundaries more or less follow those of the Canby School District (then the Canby Union High School District), has never fulfilled its vision of building parks or providing recreational services to the district.

The simple reason for this is that it has no funding, and its half-dozen or so efforts to establish a permanent tax base over the years have all been stymied at the ballot box.

“About every 10 years or so, somebody tries again to get a permanent tax base, and they’ve all failed,” CAPRD board chair Don Morgan told commissioners Thursday. “In my opinion, a lot of them weren’t fully thought out or explained to the voters.”

A map showing the current boundaries of the district, with the areas to be removed highlighted in green.

The most recent attempt 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% opposed. In hindsight, the timing may have been ill-advised, with the nation well into the throes of a historic recession, but CAPRD officials say the margins of defeat have been pretty consistent in each election, regardless of economic factors.

Precinct results have also consistently shown high levels of support for CAPRD among voters residing in the city limits of Canby — and high levels of opposition in the rural, outlying areas.

“This current board decided you can’t keep going and doing the same thing over and over,” Morgan said. “That’s why we decided to shrink the district pretty much as close as we could get to the city of Canby area.”

The idea is that the board would withdraw tax parcels from CAPRD lines to shrink the boundary lines to a much smaller area where the majority of the district’s population and public park facilities (most of them owned and operated by the City of Canby) are concentrated.

The new boundaries of the Canby Area Parks and Recreation District.

It’s something the CAPRD board has been mulling over and working toward for at least four years.

The proposal, which also includes the acres directly north of Canby encompassing Molalla River State Park and the Wayside property northeast of the city, had to be approved by the Board of Commissioners by virtue of their jurisdiction over special taxing districts in the county.

Commissioner Martha Schrader voiced support for the district’s proposal, saying it could help bring a unifying force to the disparate entities currently providing parks and recreational services to the Canby community, including the city, Canby School District and local nonprofit Canby Kids Inc.

“I think shrinking the district to the city limits will also help [Canby Kids] be able to provide the kinds of recreation and sports activities that they need,” Schrader said. “It took a while, but I’m glad we got to this place.”

With the new, smaller boundaries approved, Morgan said the CAPRD board plans to work with the district’s stakeholders, including the City of Canby, which recently approved an updated parks and recreation master plan, to develop a cohesive plan for implementing a viable tax base.

“Our plan is to spend the next couple of years, however long it takes, to come up with a good, presentable plan that people will support,” Morgan said.

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