Right time for parks board

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board May 16, 2011 02:58 pm

The Baker City Council was wise to get around to appointing a parks and recreation advisory board.

The Council’s decision to set up the seven-member volunteer board (councilors will appoint the members later this year) wasn’t belated.

But it was getting close.

After all, in just the past decade the city has built the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway and acquired the two-acre property along the Powder River where the new Central Park is under construction.

Combine those additions with the city’s existing parks — the largest and best-known being Geiser-Pollman — and there’s a significant amount of public parkland to oversee.

Plenty enough to warrant having a committee, composed of local residents, to help advise city staff and the City Council about how best to manage that property and, potentially, to consider adding to the parks system.

It’s not that the Council is incapable of overseeing the parks.

But with such an important, and well-used, public asset, we agree that there should be meaningful involvement by other residents who aren’t elected councilors.

That’s why, to name just a few, the city already has a tree board, an airport commission and a public works advisory committee.

The membership of the parks and recreation board, as set by ordinance, is appropriately local. Six of the seven members must live within the city limits (one of those six must be a city councilor). One member may live outside the city limits, but he or she must live in Baker County.

It’s possible that the new board might eventually have its duties expanded to cover a property tax-funded parks and recreation district that could encompass not only parks, but other public facilities such as Sam-O Swim Center.

No such district has been officially proposed. But if it happens — and we’d say it’s a distinct possibility — at least the basis for a governing board will be in place.