Fair's past tumbles with old barn
Clackamas County ponders fairgrounds' future, new facilities
The 108th annual Clackamas County Fairgrounds opens in August and for the first time in 90 years, its signature livestock barn with the saw-toothed roof wont be there.
Instead, livestock and the families who raise them will be housed mostly in two large tent-like temporary structures, which rent for $45,000. The livestock barn, beset by maintenance problems for at least the past decade, was deemed unsafe after six inches of snow fell in February.
Gresham resident Linda Burns, superintendent for the Clackamas County 4-H beef program, says she will miss that old barn. Its been a phenomenal place for my kids to grow up and the lifelong friendships that theyve built there, Burns says.
The 130-by-320-foot barn was built in 1924 and has been maintained and improved upon for years largely through volunteer labor. That has been part of the problem, says County Commissioner Jim Bernard, who is the commissions liaison to the fair board. The saw-tooth roof pooled rainwater and leaked. Support beams were put directly on dirt instead of concrete, so they just rotted from the bottom.
Bernard says he hopes to get the community excited about a new multimillion-dollar, multi-use structure that could be rented for concerts and car shows, events that were not possible with the old barn.
That building, because of the structure, had a lot of limitations, he says. Ive gone to the fair my whole life. But a buildings a building.
Clackamas County Business and Community Services Director Gary Barth says historically the county has had minimal involvement with the fairgrounds. The fair board is independent and employs its own staff.
Clackamas County Fairgrounds Director Laurie Bothwell says the fairgrounds has never had enough money for its maintenance needs. So many fairs across America are in the same state we are with deferred maintenance, Bothwell says. Were going to build on the future and stop patching the past.
But many are pointing fingers about whose responsibility it was to maintain the facilities.
Gladstone property manager Kevin Johnson grew up going to the county fair and says that, though he believes the current Clackamas County commission is trying to straighten things out, county property has been too poorly maintained for too long.
It seems like their solution is to let something fall down and then try to figure out how to get us to pay to replace it, Johnson says. Its time somebody is held accountable for mismanagement of county property.
Marc Gonzales is the finance director in charge of facilities maintenance at Clackamas County. He says that while most of the countys 1.2 million square feet is under regularly scheduled maintenance programs, there are a few properties such as Parrott Creek Child and Family Services in Oregon City and the fairgrounds that are more independently managed.
Weve been asked from time to time to help with those buildings and weve responded when asked, Gonzales says. Fairgrounds issues have never been on our radar until this (fiscal) year.
A lot of angst
Fair board President Dan Sandberg grew up in Canby and says he is sorry to see the barn go, too. Theres a lot of strong feelings towards the old barn and I understand that because I obviously grew up there too. But then again, Im not against change, Sandberg says.
Beginning last summer, the fair board had been going through the initial stages of a visioning process for a new master plan of the fairgrounds. Sandberg says the last one was completed in 1996 and showed that the barn had only a few more useable years left. An employee discovered the 1996 plan recently and the all-volunteer fair board is now planning to update it after this years fair wraps up.
Commissioner Martha Schrader says she went through the barn 10 years ago with restoration specialists in an effort to preserve the barn, but at that time the fair board preferred to raise money for a new barn and tear down the old one.
I believe I was the only one at the time who was feeling a lot of angst about that, Schrader says.JW_DISQUS_ADD_A_COMMENT