Dalton Park -- The other Park by the River  Gem or Gyp?
By Bill Eagle, former Chair of the St. Helens Parks Commission

Dalton Park actually consists of two purchases. The First was made 1999.  The City paid $385, 000 to purchase the Meeker Property.  This purchase was considered by the City Council to be in the best interests of the City. It belonged to a friend of the Mayor who had some financial trouble.  The City was able to acquire some river front property for the public and help a friend.  The park property consisted of approximately one quarter of an acre and was located close to the St. Helens Marina. 

The City had just completed their long range plan for parks. The long range plan required public hearings, testimony and a lot of work on the part of the City Planner and the City Parks Commission.  The Long range plan pointed out the need for parks on the West side, there was no mention of further river park development.   This was pointed out to planner Skip Baker and at the direction of City Council remedied the problem, after the fact.  He fixed it  with the stroke of a pen.  At this same time, the County offered the City an opportunity to accept some property on the West Side for park Development (over 24 acres).  There would have been no charge to the City. 

The City declined.  They informed the County that they had used all of their money for purchase of the Meeker property.  They were just not interested

A second purchase was made two years later from the Mayor and Police chief.  The purchase consisted of three undersized lots also with a total area of approximately a quarter of an acre.  The land was recently appraised and given the value of $52,903.  The taxed valuation was $36,980.  The existing Mayor argued before the County Board of equalization that it was valued too high, since a portion was subject to flooding, lacked utilities, access, and the remainder was too steep to build on.  A portion of this land was a vacated street.  This was land given to the property owners by the city.

The Mayor managed to sell it to the City for almost a quarter of a million dollars.

The Mayor recused himself as his friends on the City Council voted unanimously to accept this wonderful opportunity.
Total amount of property for Dalton is close to one half an acre.  Total cost, wll over $600, 000.   Petty cash for some jurisdictions, but quite a bit of money for a city that is now claiming to be broke.

Columbia View Park.  Presently is the Cities only publicly accessible green space by the river. It is two acres in size. The park, accord to City Councilor Locke, is seldom used.  This park, according to the parks maintenance people, is one of the busier parks in the City system.  Locke, the rest of the City Council, and the City Tourism Committee, never bothered to talk to the parks people before making their decision to use this park for building a conference center.
Because of public outcry and the threat of law suits, the City Council has wisely decided to put their Conference Center in the park plan on hold.

In the meantime, the City is still short of money.   The City had to lay off and demote park workers.   They needed the money to do some City hall remodeling and to hire a new lawyer.   

I personally question our City Council's choice of priorities. Do you think I might be wrong?                                                                  See:  A Sad Time for St. Helens Parks