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Parks Commission Study Session Minutes

Minutes
Monday, June 20, 2011

City of Ashland
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION

STUDY SESSION
MINUTES
June 20, 2011

ATTENDANCE
Present: Commissioners Eggers, Landt, Lewis, Rosenthal, Seffinger; Director Robertson; Superintendent Dials; Interim Superintendent Hammers

Absent:  City Council Liaison Slattery
 
CALL TO ORDER
Eggers called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Parks office, 340 S. Pioneer Street.

DOG-FRIENDLY AREAS DISCUSSION
Eggers welcomed everyone in attendance and said the commission previously heard significant community input on dogs and planned to use this opportunity to talk about dogs at the commission level.

Robertson said the commission discussed the topic for over a year and listened to numerous community members’ thoughts on dogs. He said three dozen emails were received that day alone. He said the September 2010 study session was a dog forum and the commission heard public testimony both for and against dogs’ accessibility to park land and then discussed the matter again at the November 2010 regular meeting. He distributed a list of benefits and concerns involving dogs in parks and said opening just a few parks to dogs could create a problem in terms of having too many dogs in too few parks. He said the existing system was not satisfactory to anyone and the community appeared to be evenly split between citizens wanting more dogs in parks and those wishing for fewer dogs in parks. He said costs for enforcement and collection of dog waste bags would be large if more areas were opened to dogs. He said the school district expressed interest in working with Parks to possibly allow for a second dog park at the former Lincoln Elementary School. He distributed a photograph of the area and said the possible dog park was at the east end of the property and adjacent to homes, a potential concern. He said athletic groups also used portions of the playground land. Startup costs for a second dog park were estimated at $5-10,000 for fencing, staffing, and maintenance. Robertson said the school district proposed having Parks maintain additional land around the school as a tradeoff for that usage. He said the potential second dog park would be a long-term addition to the Parks system rather than a short-term solution. In terms of enforcement, he said seasonal Park Patrol, the Ashland Police Department, and the municipal court would not be able to provide sufficient enforcement of dog rules and the commission might want to consider working with groups like “Ashland Loves Dogs” to build a strong coalition and establish expectations within the community. He said the park host program and volunteers could also help with the establishment of a self-policing, self-educating dog community.

Discussion Among Commissioners
Landt said the addition of a second dog park in southern Ashland would help to meet the goal in the Comprehensive Plan (transportion section) calling for a reduction of vehicle trips in Ashland.

Seffinger said her research showed that compliance happened when community members put pressure on their peers and understood pollution issues. Landt, Lewis, and Eggers expressed concerns about enforcement of laws and Seffinger said groups like “Ashland Loves Dogs” were willing to patrol parks and pick up others’ dog waste and they needed an opportunity to show they could make a difference. She said it was unfair to provide such limited access to handicapped people and there were health benefits to having a dog, especially for seniors, but few places where people could go with their dogs.

Rosenthal said one reason enforcement was challenging was because the bike path allowed for dogs and was located adjacent to parks like Railroad, but dogs were not allowed there. He said a dog park at Lincoln was worth considering.

Lewis agreed with Robertson’s point about how opening several parks to dogs could create an issue with overcrowding. He suggested keeping North Mountain Park “sacred” from dogs and agreed with Landt’s point about the transportation goal.

Seffinger reported receiving a call from a boy named Bobby who expressed concern about leaving his dog in a hot car during a ball game so his mother took the dog away. She said a dog could die in a hot car in as little as ten minutes and other cities allowed dogs to sit on field sidelines.

Landt suggested allowing dogs to be a leash length away from a park sidewalk and then reviewing feedback.

Eggers said it was the commission’s responsibility to develop a plan that could work for the entire community. She said she was concerned about giving something partway without setting limits.

Lewis said the leash law / picking up dog debris was a City-wide ordinance and there were potential health and safety issues to consider with regard to changing it. He spoke of the importance of conveying the educational piece to the public and suggested having dog owners display bags on leashes to show “intent to pick up.” He said he realized other communities allowed dogs in parks and he wanted to be part of the solution but dogs off leash fouling parks was a big concern.

Rosenthal said Medford Parks and Recreation had approximately 400 acres of developed park land on which dogs were allowed. He reported asking their Parks Division if they knew of any issues of concern and was told there were none. He said the Ashland Parks Commission identified eight park areas in November 2010 where dogs potentially could be on leash and he read through the list: Railroad, Triangle, Garden Way, Glenwood, Garfield, Clay, Winburn Way (in a possible striped walkway for pedestrians with dogs), and the golf course perimeter trail.

Landt said he would want dogs to stay on 6-foot leashes on trails and sidewalks through parks. He suggested removing Glenwood Park, as it had no sidewalks, and replacing it with Scenic Park. He said the commission could experiment with one or two parks or include a larger initial group of parks. He said he would not want to include Lithia Park or Garfield Park on the list as they had many visitors. Lewis agreed and said he wanted to enlist help from the community to keep parks safe and healthy.

Landt said it made sense to solicit input from neighbors whose parks would be affected. Robertson said staff could post notices about a single public meeting rather than scheduling separate meetings for each neighborhood park. Lewis agreed about having one meeting for all neighborhood parks and said Lincoln School neighbors would need to be noticed as well.

Seffinger spoke of the need to educate people about dog etiquette and asked for a project timeline. She again expressed support for allowing dogs to sit on ballfield sidelines and for providing level walking areas for dogs and owners located near restroom facilities.

Rosenthal gave an historical timeline for the commission’s review of dogs in parks, beginning two years earlier at a public goal setting session, and said he thought there might be a nucleus of a proposal based on the evening’s discussion. He suggested directing staff to refine the nucleus and develop a draft proposal the commission could vote on that included cost considerations, enforcement, and health and safety issues.

Eggers summarized the evening’s discussion and said the commission was asked to consider:
1.       Establishing another off-leash dog park
2.       Allowing dogs at ballfields in spectator areas
3.       Allowing dogs on neighborhood park walkways on leash

Landt expressed concern about allowing dogs on ballfields due to the large number of visitors at the fields. He suggested providing “dog stations” where dogs could be shaded, watered, and kept safe. Eggers said she wanted to hold the ballfield discussion separately.

Robertson summarized the discussion and said the commission was directing staff to prepare a proposal that included the following recommendations:
1.       Open up certain designated parks to dogs on six-foot leashes; allow dogs to use the paths or trails.
2.       Consider athletic facilities in terms of finding logical places where dogs could view games.
3.       Review the matter again before the end of the summer, possibly the July or August regular meeting.
4.       Bring to the commission a separate proposal regarding the Lincoln School “dog park” option.

REVIEW BLUEBIRD PARK STAIRWAY DESIGN
Robertson welcomed architect Greg Covey and invited him to speak to the commission.

Covey said his design kept Bluebird Park elements in place and proposed repairing the stairway without touching the portion overseen by ODOT. He said the only exceptions were the removals and replacements of the two concrete panels on the Water Street side of the sidewalk as they were old and cracked. He suggested using a heavy timber stair tread, possibly redwood, and attaching steel hardware. He said the handrails and stringers could be steel and the treads made of wood.

Landt asked for pricing on powder coated steel that could be painted the color of redwood or rust. He indicated that this option might be an improvement over using redwood tree products that might only last ten to fifteen years and could have some slickness. He said powder coated steel would have better longevity and be viewed as more “green.” He suggested narrowing the stairs to five feet and removing the center handrail. He said removing the handrail would save money and possibly be more aesthetically pleasing.

Covey said the building code stated that stairs had to be located within 30 inches of a handrail. He said designing the stairs with a six-inch riser and 15-inch tread would take some of the dimension off the length. He said he would consult with the City building inspector about eliminating the center handrail and he recommended keeping a minimum four-foot middle landing as it would be helpful for older and younger people. He said he would do price comparisons between metal and wood options.

Seffinger asked for safety information on the products under consideration.

Covey said another material worth considering was purple plate (galvanized tread material) that could be powder coated. Robertson said the material was not purple in color but purple plate with little holes, an off-the-shelf product.

Commissioners asked Covey to present a final design proposal at the July 25 regular meeting.

STAFF REPORTS
Robertson said staff spoke with Ashland Christian Fellowship Church about a possible trail linkage the church was considering dedicating to the Parks Department.

Robertson reported on the status of the Parks Superintendent search and said an offer was extended to a candidate and staff was awaiting a response.

Robertson said staff received a complaint from a citizen who expressed concern about the portion of the bike path running through North Mountain Park. He said she was concerned about people riding bikes rapidly down the hill and he asked the commission if they wanted to change the designation of that section from bike path to walking path. Commissioners directed Robertson to handle the matter at the staff level.

Robertson reported that the contractor working at the Baldwin property adjacent to Strawberry-Hald Park was in the process of cleaning up the soil that fell onto park property due to erosion at the construction site.

Robertson said the new City Attorney was on board and staff would begin working on completing updates to the employee handbook with the attorney’s assistance.

Robertson said City-issued email addresses were possible for commission members along with a hardware option called a “Notebook.” He said the hardware could only be used for City business. All commissioners agreed to sign up for email addresses and City-issued Notebooks.

Robertson reviewed the June 27 regular meeting agenda and said he would be asking for an exception to the pesticide policy since the long, wet spring had not allowed Parks staff to give organic spray a good trial.

Robertson said the main beam at the Bowmer Theatre was cracked and OSF was asking permission to erect a temporary stage in Lithia Park. The commission directed staff to schedule a special meeting on Wednesday, June 22, at 5:00 p.m. in the Parks office to discuss the matter with OSF.

ADJOURNMENT
By consensus, Eggers adjourned the meeting at 9:00 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Susan Dyssegard
Ashland Parks and Recreation

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