Andy Duyck: The Way Forward for the County Fairgrounds (Opinion)

Andy Duyck is the Chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

The story of our county fairgrounds is one of community-wide commitment and proud cultural heritage, that much Lyle Speisschaert and I can agree on (“Lyle Spiesschaert: The Washington County Fairgrounds (Opinion),” March 8, 2018). But as the saying goes, we may all be entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts.

Here are a few facts about the County’s leadership and commitment to improving our fairgrounds this last decade:

  • Fact: Multi-purpose is the future. As our community is growing and changing, so should our fairgrounds. No one is saying we must abandon our agricultural roots. In fact it is because we are planning for multi-purpose buildings and uses that our traditional fair-going heritage is likely to continue for our kids and grandkids. This means that anything we do with our fairgrounds — any building we construct or maintain — should serve both traditional as well as nontraditional uses if our fairgrounds is to remain vital and thriving in the future.

  • Fact: Partnerships lead to improvements. The county led the way in forming the Fairgrounds Revitalization Task Force in 2007 and, later, the Fairgrounds Advisory Committee. Both advisory groups and the 2010 memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the County Board and Fair Board have helped to remove misunderstandings and mistrust. Although there is much more work to be done, our partnerships with the Washington County Visitors Association, the City of Hillsboro and with other important stakeholders have made our recent improvements possible. Our successes include the refurbished Clover Leaf Building, the beautiful Veterans Drive and Veterans Gateway, the improvements made throughout the fairgrounds by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and so on. Relationships like these honor the shared vision the Revitalization Task Force came to a decade ago. Without them, our wheels would just keep spinning, taking all of us nowhere.

  • Fact: Safety is critical. Our first responsibility is to the safety of the public and our own employees who are using or working in and around the buildings on the fairgrounds throughout the year. We can argue all day about how things should have been done in the past. What matters now is how we work together to ensure a safe and successful fairgrounds for the future. The good news is our new Event Center – phase one of the 2008 Fairgrounds Master Plan – is finally becoming a reality…and without a single dollar of increased property taxes! This new facility will provide almost four times the exhibit space as the Main Exhibit Hall we are forced to remove this year and will be built and maintained at today’s safety standards. At last we will be able to pursue the Fairgrounds Revitalization Task Force’s strategy of filling a niche in the multi-use market place, creating spill-over effects benefiting the rest of the fairgrounds.

Pointing fingers and making empty allegations will not revitalize our fairgrounds, will not make the structures we’ve enjoyed for a generation last into the next and will not keep our employees, our 4-H’ers and the fair-going public any safer. What will bring us forward is the kind of leadership and effort Washington County has made along with our partners over this last decade. Let’s work together, not apart, as we continue to revitalize our fairgrounds for generations to come.