It might be a nice problem to have – figuring out who will manage Waldport’s soon-to-be-vacant Waldport High School property. The town and the school district have had a number of meetings trying to figure out what will be done with the property after the fire department burns down the school in a training exercise and hauls off the debris.
Although the school district still owns the property, FEMA bought the development rights so no traditional building can ever go up on it. Restrooms and minor sports improvements, trails, gardens, dog park…those sorts of things are allowed and they’ve been the subject of much discussion among the school district, the city, a would-be non-profit group and others.
Lincoln County Schools Superintendent Tom Rinearson has made it abundantly clear that the school district has no intention of running a city multi-use park in Waldport, or anywhere else for that matter. He said his goal is to help the community dream out loud about possible uses and then come up with the money to maintain the property and its limited improvements.
The discussion has evolved about what that funding mechanism might be – part fee, part grant funding or inkind help and what that might look like. A possible non-profit group is putting together a plan of their own for presentation to the town forum in January. That local informal group could eventually evolve into a non-profit corporation with donations to it and to the project, being tax deductible. If the town wanted to avoid most if not all costs to taxpayers for creating and maintaining the site, a non-profit might be the way to go. However, a facility with such broad based community service going forward likely for decades might be better operated by an entity as permanent as itself, which is why the city is very interested in the outcome. The city would be eligible for a wide variety of state and federal grants including grants from the Ford Family Foundation, based in Roseburg, which focuses on facility enhancements that bring communities together, especially among small towns. Another option could be the creation of a separate taxing district, like a parks and recreation district, that would encompass an area considerably larger than the city to include residents who would have access to and use of the facilities. The special park and recreation district would have its own elected board of directors just like a port or sewer and water district. These and still other hybrids are still up for consideration.
As for the old middle school on the western edge of the property, there have been discussions about using the gym which needs a roof repair.
The old Waldport High School will be burned down in stages in mid-to-late November as part of a series of fire training exercises for budding volunteer firefighters.