By Don Fitzpatrick
Re: a recent editorial suggestion regarding a Parks and Recreation District. I can certainly agree that The Barn’s and the Wagner Pool’s needs should be addressed in the long term and the communities involved are the ones that will have to address them. However, the Parks and Recreation District idea should not be revisited. It is not the answer.
I ran to be a director of the Parks and Recreation District. I also campaigned against creating it. I won on both issues. I was definitely an opponent. The proponents were undoubtedly trying to do a good thing, but their efforts were not appropriate. I certainly hope that there were not nasty or unfair abuses by me. I do not remember any by the other opponents. But, any contested effort can result in statements that are perceived as unfavorable or unfair to the opposing side.
Some of the reasons that I felt the Parks and Recreation District was not appropriate include:
• The way it was proposed to be financed was by a property tax. Not all property owners can, want to, or will use all the facilities. Recreational facilities should be paid for by users. In this case the measure failed not only by majority vote, but it was likely also opposed by a majority of the 40 percent of the property owners who own property in the valley but do not vote here. It was a very unpopular proposal.
• The five directors had virtually unlimited taxing authority to increase the taxes, as well as spend them as they determined. There was no sunset clause and, other than the governors being re-elected every six years, there was virtually no oversight.
• There was lots of specific mentions of the Wagner Pool and the Winthrop Rink, and vague suggestions we might build more ball fields, and other things. There were no clear descriptions of what “recreation and parks” really included.
There were other technical arguments that I can’t even remember, but the above are enough.
Following the defeat at the polls the Winthrop Rink was successfully completed by the many volunteers and contributors (including myself) who have never used either the rink or the pool. The pool was able to finish out its emergency repairs needed at that time. And, life went on as usual.
I do not object to taxes. They are very necessary for roads, bridges and other infrastructure. They serve a very good purpose to provide fire protection, police protection, safety, schools and other things that the public needs, but can’t really address on their own. But, recreation is readily available here in the Methow Valley. In fact, that is why people come here. Kids here have many more safe opportunities for recreation than most kids. They can literally walk out their back door and find woods, hiking trails, fishing, biking, swimming and much more.
I do not believe in setting up additional government entities and taxing for non-essential benefits that serve only a few.
The Methow Valley has long been known for its ability to provide for community needs like the pool or The Barn. Let’s leave it in the hands of the community users and their generous helpers.
Don Fitzpatrick lives in Mazama.