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Parks Commission Special Meeting Minutes

Minutes
Wednesday, June 22, 2011

City of Ashland
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION

SPECIAL MEETING
MINUTES
June 22, 2011

 
ATTENDANCE
Present: Commissioners Eggers, Landt, Lewis, Seffinger; Director Robertson; Superintendent Dials; Interim Superintendent Hammers
Absent:  Commissioner Rosenthal; City Council Liaison Slattery

 
CALL TO ORDER
Eggers called the meeting to order at 5:05 p.m. at the Parks office, 340 S. Pioneer Street.

OSF REQUEST TO USE PARKS PROPERTY FOR PRODUCTIONS
Eggers gave an overview of the request by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for exclusive use of a portion of Lithia Park for productions on a temporary basis while repairs to a failed main beam at the Angus Bowmer Theatre were undertaken.

Mayor John Stromberg said this could be a great, collaborative project between the Parks Commission, City of Ashland, and OSF. He said it was a crisis but also an opportunity. He said Parks Commission members were stewards of priceless community assets and he felt confident they would protect them.

Eggers said the request by OSF to use a portion of Lithia Park was being considered because of OSF’s importance to the community, culture, and economics of Ashland. She said the commission wanted to make the request a reality if at all possible.

Robertson welcomed everyone in attendance and said he had met with City Administrator Martha Bennett, OSF Executive Director Paul Nicholson, and City Attorney David Lohman about OSF’s request to exclusively use the “Feast of Will” lawn in Lithia Park located south of the lower duck pond as well as a portion of the lawn adjacent to the Lithia Park playground on a temporary basis. He invited Nicholson to speak to the commission.

Nicholson said he prepared information for the commission and Parks staff as requested. He said the beam, which was the spine of the building and supported the roof, had been shored up and secured but could not be replaced so other remediation efforts were underway. He said it was in the best interests of all concerned to find a place for the Bowmer shows that would most closely replicate the audience experience of the Angus Bowmer Theatre. He said OSF normally staged up to twelve plays per week at the Bowmer and they were asking for the Parks Commission to approve use of a tent or tents in Lithia Park, with the main tent structure approximately 60’ x 120’ and seating for 600, a 25’ x 25’ stage, a hard floor, aisles and walkways determined by fire and accessibility code, space behind the seating for a “lobby,” space behind the stage for storage and performer access, and a rigging system for lighting and sound. He said the main tent would be enclosed and require cooling and electricity. He said additional tents would likely be two or three structures that would be used for dressing spaces and set storage. He said pedestrian traffic would flow along the pathway from the entrance to Lithia Park and the pathway down from the Elizabethan Theatre and there would be some foot traffic from the path leading from the playground. He said they would need to identify a location for drop-off and pick-up of handicapped patrons and would station OSF house staff and volunteers around the main tent to ensure only ticketed patrons could access the area. He said they intended to keep all existing paths and walkways free and clear for non-OSF park patrons. He addressed issues relating to electrical service and vehicular impacts and said they did not anticipate any spillage of oil or gasoline. He said alternative sites were explored but neither the Ashland High School auditorium nor the SOU Recital Hall or theater were available for the length of time needed and the Historic Ashland Armory was not suitable for ongoing performances. He said the Butler Bandshell also was not suitable as it was too open and had challenging acoustics, among other concerns. He said security would be provided by OSF for the tents and their contents 24 hours a day, seven days per week.

Nicholson outlined six “challenges” as follows: the tent company would need to drive a large truck from the entrance of Lithia Park along the sidewalks; the tent would be raised using a 16,000 pound crane that would be brought to the site from the Lithia Park entrance; trees would need to be trimmed to enable the delivery of the tent; the sidewalk to the east of the lawn would need to be penetrated to install the guy ropes and the west lawn would have stakes inserted for the tent’s support; the lawn would be badly damaged and potential damage would be done to the drainage and irrigation systems. He provided a mitigation plan for each challenge.

Nicholson said potential losses to both OSF and the City due to the Bowmer’s structural issues were large, as the Festival could lose approximately $500,000 per week in ticket revenues and the tourism industry could lose OSF’s 3,000 patrons per week, 85% of whom were from out of town and visited not only OSF but also restaurants, lodging establishments, and retail stores. He said OSF calculated the direct economic impact of each visitor to Ashland was $685.

In summary, Nicholson asked the commission to approve the following:
a.       The use of delineated sections of Lithia Park
b.       A waiver from standard park hours
c.       A waiver from the noise ordinance for the hours of performances:
·             Matinees from 1:30 to 4:45 p.m.
·             Evenings from 8:30 to 11:45 p.m.
d.       A waiver from the “selling in the park” ordinance to enable OSF to sell beer, wine, water, and limited food items.

Robertson said Interim Parks Superintendent Brenda Hammers and Parks Horticulturist Anne Thayer were asked to brainstorm ideas and raise potential concerns about the project and he invited them to speak to the commission.
Hammers said staff had concerns about trees in the Feast of Will lawn area, including spruce, maple, and oak trees with shallow roots that were accustomed to receiving surface water. She asked how the trees could be watered if the tent covered the root areas and suggested having a raised platform under which tubed irrigation water could be provided. She asked about the height of the trucks and the proposed pathway through which they would travel to the site. She said staff would need to coordinate with OSF to alleviate potential damage. She said the irrigation system could not withstand a 16,000 pound truck and she asked about the placement of the port-o-potties for OSF patrons and suggested a possible location to the left of the climbing wall in the playground. She said the Feast of Will lawn was a good location for the temporary OSF structures as it was an isolated area that could be more easily rehabilitated afterwards.

Thayer talked about tree roots and compared them to a pancake under the surface. She said she would want to water the trees at least once each week and keep the roots from being compacted. She said some of the pruning suggested by OSF could be done in-house and plywood placed over the sand-based lawn areas. She said an irrigation hose could be installed but might cause runoff and she wondered how that would impact OSF patrons. She said the watering could occur on Mondays, which were “dark days” at OSF.

Robertson said there would need to be a raised flooring system installed to protect tree roots. Hammers said the bridge near the old Parks shop area was rated for 20,000 pounds and would probably be the bridge over which the crane traveled to access the tent area. Robertson said the commission would need an indemnification certificate from OSF stating that all damages to park lands would be covered.

Public Input
Laurie Gibbs, 536 Ashland Street, co-owner of the Winchester Inn and a new member of the OSF board, said she was attending the meeting in support of OSF and to thank everyone for their efforts. She said the attitude of the community was very positive and there was a sense of awe about how well OSF was handling things. She said all were united in supporting this effort and the lodging community was a great vehicle for disseminating information to OSF patrons.

Pam Hammond, 632 Walnut Street, co-owner of Paddington Station, said she was excited about how this was bringing everyone together. She spoke of her hope that a solution could be found that would benefit everyone and said the downtown community, including merchants and lodging proprietors, all needed to have a strong season. She said she had a letter from Ashland Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Sandra Slattery, who was not able to attend the meeting but was hoping a solution could be found.

Discussion Among Commissioners
Landt, who arrived at 5:30, apologized for being late and said the community was fortunate in not having any serious disasters in his twenty years in Ashland. He said the Bowmer’s structural damage (and pursuant remediation efforts) was equivalent to the 1997 flood but was more of an economic threat than a natural disaster. He spoke of the need to protect the local parks but in a cooperative way.

Seffinger said she and Eggers visited the sites under discussion earlier that day and were concerned about maintaining them while finding a positive solution for all involved.

Lewis agreed with Landt and Seffinger and said he had heard no concerns that couldn’t be overcome. He said the commission needed to be adaptable and improvise as needed to make this work. He said the area under discussion, historically called “The Grove,” was the first section of Lithia Park purchased by the Chautauqua Association and people historically had camped there.

Eggers said she was in agreement with other commissioners and considered the community her family. She said her biggest concern was about the trees and she felt the black locust and spruce trees needed to be fenced from start to finish. She said she was not as concerned about short-term impacts and had questions about generators and noise. She suggested using the sandy area for the storage and costume tents.

Landt said the emphasis needed to be on prevention rather than mitigation and suggested having a tree protection plan in place before starting construction of the temporary facilities.

City Administrator Bennett said there were several permits needed and City staff members were working on some of them but she knew Parks Commission rules differed somewhat from City rules.

Landt said the only piece he questioned was the request for the selling of beer and wine, as the Parks Commission did not allow for alcohol in parks. He said beer and wine were not critical to a festival experience but asked whether the commission wanted to consider waiving the ordinance in this instance. Other commissioners agreed they did not want to allow for those sales and Lewis stated that the rule was waived on Parks-managed properties with respect to restaurants serving alcohol along Guanajuato Way and OSF selling alcohol to their patrons, since some of the OSF facilities were located on park land. Sales of limited food items and water were not contested by the commission.
Robertson said the tree plan was critical for ingress and egress of large machinery. He said the trucks would need to be kept away from drip lines of trees and asked about laying down materials under platform legs to alleviate compaction of the ground. Landt said wood chips could provide that protection. Robertson said the site plan had not been completed and Landt said the project could move forward without it. Thayer said there would need to be adequate space for water and oxygen for tree roots. Commissioners suggested having Parks staff on hand during the installation of the temporary structures to ensure the protection of tree roots and water lines. Hammers said there were some old water lines in that area that could be patched but not turned off and staff would need to guide the installation workers through those areas.

Commissioners discussed how to frame the motion and Landt said it would need to include costs, prevention measures, and mitigation efforts being covered by OSF. Seffinger asked for remuneration of Parks staff time by OSF for their extra work on the project. Eggers said her concerns, which she hoped would be captured in the motion, included protection for trees, including physical barriers, restoration plans, and having a staff member on site at all times. She suggested having a preconstruction conference with Parks staff along with appropriate construction workers and OSF. Landt said he wanted all project costs to be covered by OSF, including labor, painting, and restoration. In terms of artificial lighting, Landt said as long as the lights were inside the tents and not shining off Parks property, there would be no problem with the additional lights in the park.

MOTION: Landt moved to approve the Oregon Shakespeare Festival request to use the delineated sections of Lithia Park as discussed; to waive standard park hours; to waive the noise ordinance for the hours of performances, including matinee performances from 1:30 to 4:45 p.m. and evening performances from 8:30 to 11:45 p.m.; and to waive the “selling in the park” ordinance and allow OSF to sell water, limited food items, and souvenirs in the park. Landt further moved to attach conditions to this approval including: ensure that compaction around trees is prevented; ensure that the implementation of a tree protection plan is in place prior to allowing anything into the areas under discussion; ensure that an arborist approves the tree protection plan; ensure that an arborist identifies any necessary tree pruning; ensure that a restoration plan is in place that is flexible yet clear; ensure that a staff member is on site during all construction; ensure that a preconstruction conference is scheduled with Parks staff; ensure that all liability issues are outlined within the contract drawn up by the City Attorney; and ensure that all costs for implementing the use of Parks property by OSF are borne by OSF, including labor, staff time, planting costs, and restoration and mitigation costs. Lewis seconded the motion.
Vote: All yes

Nicholson asked for a post-event meeting following the conclusion of the temporary solution.

ADJOURNMENT– By consensus, Eggers adjourned the meeting at 6:17 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Susan Dyssegard
Ashland Parks and Recreation

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