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Let's Play Together!
Methow Valley Recreation District

The Methow Valley is a playground for all who live here and our visitors. In addition to its beautiful landscape, the Methow Valley offers a variety of recreation opportunities. Many of these recreation facilities are provided by the Towns of Twisp and Winthrop, but are used by everyone who lives in the Valley and visits our community. The burden of building and maintaining these recreational facilities is on the property owners in both towns, yet the assessed value of the combined towns of Twisp and Winthrop is only 14% of the assessed value for the Methow Valley School District. There is no support from Okanogan County in the geographic area outside the towns in the Methow Valley. All the while the citizens in the Methow Valley continue to desire more and greater recreation facilities for their own use and to continue to grow tourism.

The Friends of the Recreation District (FORD) would like to help our community enrich its recreation opportunities and add to its economic vitality. Their proposal is the creation of a “recreation district” that encompasses the same geographic area as the Methow Valley School District. The purpose of the proposed “Methow Valley Recreation District” (MVRD) is to provide an equitable funding source for all types of recreation projects and programs throughout the Methow Valley. The goal is to create an ongoing stable source of funding specifically for recreation that can be used to maintain the existing facilities, complete projects already planned, and create new recreation programs.

The mechanism to create the MVRD is a state law (RCW 35.61) which allows residents in a geographic area to petition the County for the opportunity to vote on the formation of a recreation district. FORD is actively working on collecting the necessary 700 signatures on a petition to do just this by the end of December 2013. Petitions are available at the Mazama Country Store, Winthrop Mountain Sports, The Country Clinic, and Glover Street Market. Once the signatures have been certified by the Okanogan County Auditor a proposition to create the MVRD will be placed on the April 2014 special election ballot.

The MVRD will be able to participate in all types of recreation projects within the boundaries of the Recreation District including classes, matching funds for new construction, contracts to provide ongoing recreation opportunities and new construction. Most likely existing ownership of specific facilities (by towns or school district) would continue, with MVRD providing financial support for specific projects or programs. As a municipal corporation the MVRD will need to abide by contracting requirements and open meeting laws similar to towns and cities. This is not a program of grants but instead of contracts to provide recreation benefits to the community.

The proposed Methow Valley Recreation District has received tremendous public support. There is wide support for the Wagner Memorial Pool and the Winthrop Ice Rink throughout the community. Both of these recreation facilities are expensive to build and maintain, but provide a unique and much loved source of recreation, one in the summer, and the other in the winter. The MVRD is the perfect solution to insuring that these facilities can be kept operational for a long time. The MVRD can also be of great assistance for the proposed Winthrop River Walk and the Twisp Community Trail. These are both the highest priority new recreation projects for their respective towns.

Trails are clearly popular in our valley and are the highest recreation projects listed by both towns’ recreation plans. But the two towns can only work within their boundaries. The MVRD will have the ability to be active anywhere within the boundaries of the Methow Valley School District. The MVRD can team with MVSTA to improve public access trails in the summer, provide parking and restroom facilities at trailheads, link the two towns’ trails with other trail systems, and partner state and federal agencies to maintain and build new trails on their lands.

One of the benefits of the proposed recreation district is that not only will it provide recreation opportunities for its residents it also has the capacity to improve the economic vitality of the Methow Valley. Visitors flock to the Methow Valley not only for its scenic beauty, but for the variety of outdoor recreation opportunities year around. The MVRD will provide a funding source to invest in new and improved recreation facilities that will continue to draw more visitors to our valley. Projects such as the Winthrop Ice Rink already have drawn a new group of visitors who want to play here. Proposals such as better river access, a whitewater park, a more extensive valley floor trail system, additional ball fields, and a biathlon course all could contribute to increase visitors and therefore help the economic health of the valley.

The MVRD will be managed by a board of five local Recreation District Commissioners which will be elected for “at-large” positions next April. The Commissioners will have staggered six year terms and can be paid $90 per day that they work on District business. The District Commissioners will have the authority to set an annual budget which will be translated by the County Assessor into a property tax levy. This budget will be set based upon the project proposals brought to the MVRD each year.

The District Commissioners initially could pass a budget that results in a levy rate of $0.10 which would be $30/year on a $300,000 assessed home and would raise about $126,000 per year for the District. The maximum levy rate is $0.75/$1,000 of assessed value or about $225/year for a home assessed at $300,000.

While the primary source of ongoing funding for MVRD will be a property tax, the District has the authority to apply directly for project funding. A major source of funding for recreation facilities in the past has been the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO), a Washington State funding agency. Many of these RCO grant programs require a local match of up to 50%. The MVRD can apply directly to this and other agencies, or provide the match for the towns of Winthrop and Twisp for their projects.

The proposed MVRD is an opportunity to use our high property values to enhance the recreation opportunities throughout the Methow Valley. It is a chance to create a stable locally controlled source of funding of recreation facilities and programs that the community wants without depending primarily upon donations or the two town’s property owner’s taxes. The result will be increased recreation opportunities, increased economic growth, and a wonderful place for us to play together.

The MVRD will provide a path to fulfill the dreams of our citizens to create wonderful recreation opportunities for ourselves, our children, and our visitors.


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