In our view: John Ball Park spurs Hough pride

Long-term future of gathering placeis secured by school-city agreement

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Vancouver’s Hough neighborhood -- bounded by the two “Plain” boulevards and Main and Lincoln streets — is one of the oldest and most enthusiastic sections of our community. Proud residents are active not only in their own neighborhood association but in the 20-year-old Hough Foundation, which supports the neighborhood and the elementary school.Other than the school, the most vibrant gathering place in Hough is John Ball Park at Northwest 23rd Street and Kauffman Avenue. Most folks in Hough would be surprised to learn that the 2.4-acre park is owned not by the city of Vancouver but by Vancouver Public Schools.

That’s about to change, though, to the benefit of the city and the school district … and especially to the long-term benefit of Hough residents.

As Andrea Damewood reported in Tuesday’s Columbian, the city is buying the park from the school district for $417,500. The school board has approved the sale, and the city council is expected to add its approval. For the residents of Hough, this transaction assures they will be able to keep the second-most prominent gathering spot in their neighborhood. Who among them even knew that the park’s future was at risk? Well, it really wasn’t. But, technically, the school district could’ve sold the land to another buyer for nonpark use.

Congratulations to both factions for this win-win agreement. For cash-strapped Vancouver Public Schools, it means $417,500 that can be put to good use. The deal also allows the school district to remove John Ball Park from its roster of surplus properties.

For the city and the Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Department, the transaction further justifies the more than $73,000 in grants that have been used to improve the park. The money to buy the park comes from park impact fees, a mandatory charge assessed to developers that can be used only to develop parks or buy park land.

As a result, the people of Hough are assured of continued access to the park’s open lawn area, plus the playground, picnic tables, benches, a sidewalk along the south side of the park and the basketball hoop with a concrete court.

Hough Neighborhood Association Co-chairwoman Eileen Cowan said of John Ball Park: “We love it. We’re excited to keep it as a park. It’s a big center and used very, very often by very many people.”

Another bonus for the city pertains to the timing of the deal. Parks Director Pete Mayer said, “Both the (school) district and the city are satisfied with (the $417,500). It reflects the market rate today, which is significantly less than what it was four years ago.”

Thus, another interesting chapter is written in the long story about the Hough neighborhood, which is named after Paddy Hough, who retired in 1908 as principal of a school where the park now exists. John Ball Park was named after the man who arrived in 1832 as the first teacher in the Oregon Country. He was installed in that position by John McLoughlin, chief factor at Fort Vancouver.

One of the best definitions of the spirit of Hough is found at www.houghfoundation.org. The organization “builds bridges within our community by cultivating self-reliance, mentoring parents and students, advocating for mental health and social services, and providing classroom, after-school and early-learning enrichment opportunities.”

It’s good to see that spirit strengthened by the city and school district securing John Ball Park’s long-term future.