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Parks Commission Study Session Minutes

Minutes
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

City of Ashland

PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION

 

STUDY SESSION
MINUTES

February 16, 2011

ATTENDANCE

Present:         Commissioners Eggers, Landt, Lewis; Director Robertson; Superintendents Dials and Gies

Absent:       Commissioners Rosenthal and Seffinger; City Council Liaison Slattery

CALL TO ORDER

Eggers called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. at the Parks office, 340 S. Pioneer.

PARKS SUPERINTENDENT QUALITIES DISCUSSION

Robertson said the Parks Department was beginning the recruitment process for a new Parks Superintendent to replace Gies [who retired on January 31 and was hired back on contract through March 31] and he distributed a rough draft of the recruitment brochure. He said the position would be advertised—in The Oregonian newspaper and on parks and recreation association Web sites in California and Oregon—for approximately one month, with interviews scheduled in April. He indicated that an internal employee would serve as interim superintendent until a replacement could be found and said he expected the new superintendent to be on board by mid-to-late-May. He suggested including, on the interview panel, two commissioners, Dials, a representative from the Personnel Department, and another employee. He said he wished to conduct the final interview alone to gauge the individual’s fit within the organization. He asked the commission to provide input on traits they wished to see in a Parks Superintendent.

Discussion Among Commissioners

Commissioners provided minor rewording of the draft brochure and asked about the pay scale. Robertson said the salary was commensurate with other similar positions in Oregon. Landt suggested hiring someone who was personable, dependable, diplomatic, and knowledgeable about community involvement as well as environmental issues and community values. Eggers asked for someone experienced with public meetings and skilled at interfacing with the community. Lewis asked whether certifications in playground safety inspections and pool operations were desirable qualities or requirements for the job and Robertson said they were desirable qualities. Robertson said he would ask for a writing sample from each candidate to gauge written communication skills and said he wanted to hire an individual with a desire to eventually become Parks Director. He said he hoped to have two such internal candidates upon his retirement in several years.

Commissioners agreed to provide Robertson with feedback on the brochure within a week.

BUDGET GOALS

·         Financial and Business Plan

Commissioners agreed to retain this goal in FY 2011-2012.

·         Non-Native Vegetation Control Plan

Gies said Ashland park sites that included non-natives had been mapped and prescriptions written for controlling this type of vegetation. He said he hoped the non-native vegetation control plan would become part of the department’s routine and long-term maintenance practices. He said an annual review of the plan would be presented and discussed at the March 28 regular meeting.

·         Lower Clay Street Properties

Robertson said he hoped this goal would help the commission decide whether to master plan for the lower Clay Street property as well as Chitwood Park and Ashland Creek Park properties. Eggers and Lewis suggested reviewing the entire Open Space Plan and determining what needed to be accomplished and in what order. Lewis said the commission’s role was to provide the community with parks such as the proposed park at Chitwood. Landt spoke with concern about the cost of maintaining the large existing parks system and said he was cautious about adding more maintenance costs to the system. He suggested including a review of existing maintenance practices during the goals review.

·         Oak Knoll Golf Course

Robertson said progress was made on this goal in FY 2010-2011 and he suggested increasing the usage of the 73-acre golf course property. He said the commission previously discussed installing walking trails and a disc golf course that would be overlaid onto the traditional course and he indicated that walkers currently utilized the course for that purpose. In terms of disc golf, he reported spending time with disc golfers who felt it was possible to create a disc golf course over the traditional course. Robertson said he was not sure the two cultures would be compatible, as disc golfers were not used to paying fees to play their sport and the differing noise levels could create a problem. Landt asked if there was room for a playground at the golf course as that area did not have a neighborhood park. Gies spoke about the possibility of placing a playground near the clubhouse.

·         Nature Center

Dials said Nature Center staff met with their advisory committee about Nature Center programs and services and the group’s biggest concern was school programs that were currently funded by school classrooms. She said staff and the advisory committee wanted to find alternative funding mechanisms. Landt said program costs were once shared between Parks and the Youth Activities Levy (YAL) but the YAL ended and Parks picked up the substantial cost of school programs. He said he wanted to explore ways to reduce or share those costs with other entities. Lewis said Nature Center and Senior Center programs, both valued within the community, were largely subsidized by Parks and he asked how extensively Parks wanted to subsidize such programs. Robertson said the Ashland School District reported that teachers found the programs valuable. Landt suggested reviewing the overall Parks budget and determining affordable funding levels for Nature Center programs.

·         Community Communication

Robertson said the commission scheduled community forums in recent years to solicit public input on three topics: Daniel Meyer Pool, pesticides, and dogs. He asked the commission if they wanted to continue holding public forums and/or including “Community Communication” as a goal in FY 2011-2012. Commissioners said the community forums were a valuable tool that allowed participants to hear what others in the community had to say about certain topics.  

·         Environmental Evaluations and Audits

Gies said the Green Business Program might be inoperative as the DEQ representative was out of the office for a year and another team member planned to retire in a year. Dials said a Parks Department green team was formed consisting of a Nature Center representative, a Parks Division representative and herself as the Recreation Division representative. She said the internal team looked at the department’s recycling efforts along with some park sites and would continue to work with the City to determine how to move forward independently. Commissioners offered minor rewording of the goal and said it might be better to convert into department policy the goal of increasing conservation measures, reducing energy consumption, and reducing waste creation.

·         Preliminary Steps Toward the Creation of a Lithia Park Master Plan

Robertson said a subcommittee for this goal was formed and met once. He suggested holding off on the goal until a new Parks Superintendent could be hired. He asked for a better definition of the goal and suggested folding it into a department work plan. Landt asked whether the goal was to update the existing master plan for the park or create a new master plan. Robertson asked if the goal was to review park amenities and then determine whether to restore, replace, or remove them. Landt said a review of park facilities would be critical for such a master plan process. Eggers said her critical piece within the goal was a desire to develop a long-term view (100 years into the future) for Ashland Creek within the park along with its riparian areas. She said she would want to create a working document for reviewing species and diversity. Lewis said a Lithia Park master plan would require extra staff time and the possible need to hire a consultant. Gies said a riparian plan for Ashland Creek in Lithia Park could be utilized for any riparian area in any of Ashland’s parks. Landt suggested including within the goal a complete structural assessment and a review and recommendation for the management plan of Ashland Creek. Robertson said the new riparian ordinance for the City required structures to be at least fifty feet from a creek but the Enders Shelter was closer than that and he asked how to the commission would honor historical park elements while also adhering to City codes. Eggers said the plan could also include defined access points to the creek.

Discussion Among Commissioners and Staff

Robertson said he heard requests for refinements of the goals and said he would review his notes and bring the refined goals back to the commission at their February regular meeting. He said Rosenthal could not attend the evening’s discussion but sent the goals he wished to share with the commission:

·         Review and update Open Space Plan

·         Review bonding in terms of the CIP list and review the CIP list

·         Take a long-term look at the Parks budget in terms of central service fees

·         Review the Lithia Park master plan goal and clean it up

·         Review commission protocols and procedures and possibly develop new ones

·         Consider development of Ashland Creek Park

Dials said staff was in the process of reviewing signs within the Parks system and developing a checklist to help determine when a sign was needed. She proposed including sign reviews as a goal in the next fiscal year. Eggers said signs issues were addressed during the development of the Parks policy on signs, plaques, and memorials. Landt said that if staff had spent time on the signs review then he wanted to give staff the opportunity to present their findings to the commission. In terms of volunteerism in parks, Robertson said staff proposed the creation of a park / trail host program in which volunteers would distribute information to park and trail users about trail routes, maps, dogs, dog waste bag stations, leashes, and provide outreach. He said the Volunteer Coordinator would help with the development of the trail host program.

ADDITIONAL DISCUSSION

Robertson provided an update on loss prevention and explained how the recent Parks thefts occurred. Landt asked whether controls had been established in areas of the Parks system that had not been compromised, such as cash handling procedures for seasonal facilities. Robertson said cash handling procedures were established for the ice rink and pool and approved by the City Treasurer. Dials said a safe was installed for the ice rink and staff was trained by the City Treasurer in cash handling. She said supervisors reviewed daily accounting sheets before sending them to City Finance. Landt encouraged staff to consider allowing a review of the control systems by outside parties who had a fresh eye. Robertson said staff relied on auditors and the City Treasurer to implement cash handling policies and procedures.

ADJOURNMENT– By consensus, Eggers adjourned the meeting at 9:15 p.m.

Respectfully submitted, Susan Dyssegard, Ashland Parks and Recreation

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