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Parks & Recreation Commission (View All)

Parks Commission Study Session Minutes

Minutes
Monday, August 17, 2009

City of Ashland

PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION

 

STUDY SESSION
MINUTES

August 17, 2009

 

ATTENDANCE

Present:         Commissioners Eggers, Gardiner, Lewis, Noraas, Rosenthal; Interim Director Gies; Superintendent Dials; Staff Horticulturist Todt; Staff Forestry/Trails Supervisor McFarland

Absent:       City Council Liaison Silbiger; Director Robertson

CALL TO ORDER

Gardiner called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. at the Parks office, 340 S. Pioneer Street.

Gardiner said two of the commission’s goals for FY 2009-2010 were pesticides and non-native vegetation. Gies said staff prepared presentations on both topics for the commission.

PESTICIDES – PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION

Staff Horticulturist Donn Todt presented information about Parks pesticide practices, historical usage, toxicity, and application methods.

Todt said the Parks pesticide policy—developed in the 1980s—was greatly influenced by author Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. He said the policy was deliberately conservative, with restricted chemicals banned from use. He said staff spent thousands of hours manually controlling weeds each year; no large-scale applications of weed killers were used on lawns or elsewhere within the parks system; and an integrated pest management (IPM) system was implemented for the department, including fertilizing, overseeding, aerating, irrigating, and mowing. He said Parks staff tolerated a great deal of diversity in lawns, including dandelions and English daisy, and that species not requiring high inputs of pesticides for survival were regularly used. He said higher maintenance trees and bushes were removed from the parks system, partially to reduce pesticide usage, and that staff monitored pest populations, used biological controls only when effective and appropriate, and rarely used insecticides. He said spraying was not allowed within 15 feet of playgrounds. He said Parks employed three Oregon Certified Pesticide Applicators when just one was required; the certified applicators authorized and purchased all pesticides used by Parks staff; and employees were not allowed to apply pesticides without event-specific authorization. He said Parks staff received a mandatory review of the department’s pesticide policy and procedures each year. He reported that any application of pesticides with toxicity greater than table salt (LD 50) required a posting in the area.

Todt reviewed the pesticide application equipment used by staff, including a small two-gallon hand-held sprayer and a smaller bottle used for “cut and treat” applications. He said staff wore personal protective equipment when applying pesticides, including safety glasses, rubber gloves, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. He said records were maintained for every application event.

Public Input

Angie Thusius, 897 Beach Street, said she appreciated receiving clarity and information about the Parks Department’s IPM system. She referenced articles on pesticide reductions in other locations and requested that Parks work with the city and school district to form a unified pesticides policy and also sign on to the City of Ashland ordinance of 1996, a proposal to minimize or eliminate pesticide use. She said the City of Arcata, CA, substituted natural oils for pesticides. She said volunteers would step forward to help with manual maintenance associated with an IPM.

Julie Norman, 596 Helman Street, distributed information about pesticide elimination and said she looked forward to ongoing discussions about defining a more explicit IPM policy for the city. She said weeds in street cracks could be eliminated using small burners. She said the Eugene and Arcata models for pesticide reduction or elimination were useful to consider.

Tom Marr, 955 N. Mountain Avenue, thanked both the commission and Todt and said inert ingredients found in pesticide products, generally not studied carefully, were more dangerous than active ingredients. He said the risks of pesticides outweighed the benefits and requested their elimination in City of Ashland parks. He said most Ashland residents were not aware of spray events and he requested a moratorium on pesticide use until the issue could be resolved and a new policy written.

Frances Dunham, 807 Beach Street, said she researched water quality standards and other issues before moving to Ashland but never thought to research pesticide use in parks, as she thought Ashland was a progressive city. She requested a moratorium on spraying until further research could be conducted on inert product ingredients.

Allan Peterson, 807 Beach Street, said he and Dunham moved to Ashland after researching the entire state. He reported seeing warning signs in Lithia Park about water quality, bears, and yellow jackets, but not signs about chemical applications. He said the health of children was of utmost importance and he asked for a moratorium on chemical sprays in parks pending further research.

Gardiner thanked everyone for contributing to the discussion and said it was the start of the process.

NON-NATIVE VEGETATION REMOVAL – PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION

Gies reviewed the documentation prepared by staff and said more than 600 acres had been treated or retreated since 1990. He welcomed Forestry and Trails Supervisor McFarland, inviting him to speak to the commission.

McFarland reviewed prescriptions for parks located at Chitwood and Clay Street, both prepared by Todt, and explained that they were ongoing projects.

Desired conditions for the 2.4-acre Chitwood property were reported to include a mixture of native and non-native trees and shrubs, blackberries comprising a small percentage of the biomass, and the elimination of Scotch broom, Japanese polygonum, and cherry plum. McFarland reviewed the existing conditions, initial treatment protocol, and prescription / post initial treatments and said removals would include non-invasive, non-native trees only where they were adjacent to native species, in competition with them, or where removal wouldn’t greatly compromise shading of the creek. Estimated cost for initial treatment was $3,362, including 22.5 hours of volunteer labor, with ongoing annual costs estimated at $1,811.

Desired conditions for the 3.5-acre Clay Street property (Cemetery Creek portion) were reported to include shading by predominantly native species of trees and shrubs, with blackberries controlled but not eliminated. McFarland reviewed the existing conditions, initial treatment protocol, and prescription / post initial treatments and said removals would include blackberries, teasel, clover, and other herbaceous weeds located away from the immediate vicinity of the recently planted native species. Over ten years’ time, he said cherry plums and Siberian elms would be eliminated and more native trees planted, and the increased shading would gradually eliminate much of the introduced herbaceous weedy vegetation. Estimated cost for initial treatment was $15,170, including 160 hours of volunteer labor, with ongoing annual costs estimated at $1,486.50.

McFarland said the blackberries at Clay Street Park, a major fire hazard, had been manually controlled along the riparian area, with manual follow-up conducted in the form of chipping and flailing.

Discussion Among Commissioners

Commissioners discussed utilizing volunteers for such projects. Eggers suggested encouraging students from the adjacent Siskiyou School to assist with the maintenance of Clay Street Park. She said such volunteer efforts helped to build community, educate people about non-natives, and reduce labor costs.

Gies suggested, during budget season, that the commission could discuss the possibility of hiring a volunteer coordinator for the Parks Department. He said staff would move forward in writing prescriptions for every park site, with the commission prioritizing the order in which the prescriptions were implemented.

Eggers volunteered to serve on a subcommittee to coordinate a volunteer structure for parks maintenance assistance. Commissioners discussed including McFarland, Todt, and Linda Chesney of the North Mountain Park Nature Center as subcommittee support staff.

SIGNS AND PLAQUES SUBCOMMITTEE DISCUSSION

Gardiner referenced an updated draft version of the Lithia Park entrance sign that incorporated previous commission comments and suggestions. He said the creek was made bluer, a directionally correct compass was added, and changes were made to the text, with more white space added. Commissioners offered positive feedback and directed staff to move the sign to the production stage after a final proofreading.

Gies reviewed the Upper Duck Pond signs that incorporated previous commission comments and suggestions and talked about their placement around the pond. Commissioners spoke approvingly of the changes and directed staff to move the signs to the production stage after a final proofreading.

ORPA CONFERENCE / SEPTEMBER STUDY SESSION DATE

Dials said the September study session was scheduled for Monday, September 21, but the date conflicted with the annual Oregon Parks and Recreation Association conference. She suggested moving the meeting date back by one week—to September 14—so that all staff and commissioners could attend the fees and charges study session.

Commissioners agreed to the proposed change.

OTHER BUSINESS

Gies said that, earlier in the day, TID water was added to the Upper Duck Pond. He said staff was monitoring water inflows and would continue to make adjustments until the level of the pond water stabilized.

Gies said the backflow device at the Upper Duck Pond pump station was replaced and the project was nearly completed. He said a section of Winburn Way would be closed the following day to allow for the installation of the water lines to the station.

Gies said that, due to the seasonally lower water level at the Reeder Reservoir, Parks staff reduced by 20% the irrigation of Parks-managed lands throughout the city. He said some landscaping could begin to appear brown with the reduced water usage.

ADJOURNMENT– By consensus, Gardiner adjourned the meeting at 10:03 p.m.

Respectfully submitted, Susan Dyssegard, Ashland Parks and Recreation

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