Present: Commissioners Eggers, Landt, Lewis, Rosenthal, Seffinger; City Council Liaison Silbiger; Director Robertson; Superintendents Dials and Dickens
CALL TO ORDER
Eggers called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. at Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street.
Study Session—January 9, 2012
MOTION: Landt moved to approve the minutes as presented. Lewis seconded the motion.
The vote was: All yes
Regular Meeting—January 23, 2012
MOTION: Landt moved to approve the minutes as presented. Rosenthal seconded the motion.
The vote was: All yes
William Barchet, 961 B Street, co-owner of Hana Sushi Restaurant, requested clarification about leasing space on the Calle Guanajuato for outdoor dining by restaurant patrons. He specifically asked about the use of the alcove spaces and said he understood restaurants had priority use of those areas. Eggers said the commission established guidelines for use of the space and directed staff to implement them. Barchet said the process for determining leased space was opaque but a meeting was scheduled with Dials the following day to discuss his 2012 space needs.
ADDITIONS OR DELETIONS TO THE AGENDA
Annual Integrated Pest Management Policy Review and Volunteer Coordinator Update
Eggers said the commission adopted a new IPM policy in 2011 and staff would present its first annual review.
Parks Horticulturist Anne Thayer showed a pesticide-free parks presentation for the Ashland parks system. Topics reviewed included labor and material costs, challenges of the new system, posting requirements, and the three organic products utilized: Worryfree Weed and Grass Killer, Safer (insect killing soap), and Burnout II. She said non-synthetics were used only on dry, warm days (70 degrees or warmer) and weeds remained in areas that were treated and retreated. She said the Dog Park parking lot was treated with non-synthetics on numerous occasions but the weeds were not under control and required weed-eating. She showed a slide of North Mountain Park infields and said the weeds were a safety issue. She questioned the use of time and materials required for treating and retreating areas with organic products. She shared a letter from a concerned citizen asking for the use of synthetic pesticides on North Mountain Park fields for the sake of aesthetics and safety. She said Parks staff requested the implementation of a tiered system so synthetics could be used by trained, skilled professionals in limited quantities. Requests for exemptions of non-synthetics included median strips, parking lots, infields at North Mountain Park and Hunter Park, the Ashland Airport, Ashland Community Hospital, for noxious weed control, and for the weed abatement program regulated by Ashland Fire and Rescue. She said the 48-hour posting requirement caused problems due to weather restrictions and she asked for its elimination.
Volunteer Coordinator Lori Ainsworth presented her annual “Volunteer in Parks” (VIP) program report. She said volunteer labor undertaken in the removal of invasive species in 2011 included 34 work parties that accomplished 1,500 hours of volunteer labor, 1,000 hours of individual grounds maintenance, and 700 hours of volunteer trail maintenance for a total of 3,200 volunteer hours of parks maintenance. She said five parks, one garden, and the Calle Guanajuato were adopted by community members or groups. Ainsworth said the VIP program included 350 volunteers working in 40 unique positions and completing 7,576 volunteer hours in 2011, almost half of which were spent on grounds maintenance.
Discussion Among Commissioners
Commissioners discussed the staff concern about the ineffectiveness of non-synthetic pesticides used in 2011. Landt said an extra $10,000 was budgeted for the purchase of non-synthetic products and mulch but the products were not used in full due to a very wet year. He asked if it was a fair year for judging the new policy based on those circumstances. He suggested implementing steam weeding and voiced support for the elimination of the 48-hour posting requirement and the implementation of educational notices at the time of spraying. He said non-synthetic products were household substances that were certified organic. He suggested removing the time period restrictions for use (“no spraying between Memorial Day and Labor Day”) to allow the products to be used throughout the year according to label instructions. Landt said a commission decision to revert back to the use of synthetic products in certain situations when that wasn’t publicized as a possibility would not demonstrate a spirit of full disclosure. Commissioners considered extending the trial period by another year to give the policy a fair trial. When asked by Lewis if any victories had been achieved in 2011 with the new policy, Dickens said the non-synthetics were a failure in terms of eliminating weeds but the VIP program provided valuable labor for removing weeds from parks. He said staff’s request for a tiered system would allow for specific exemptions to the IPM policy under certain circumstances. Robertson said the tiered system would provide parameters for the use of synthetics in certain situations as needed so staff would not need to request exemptions from the commission each time. Robertson said he felt the experience in 2011 with non-synthetics was a fair trial period for the products. He specifically referred to the situation at the Dog Park, in which non-synthetic products were used repeatedly in warm weather with inferior results. He said ongoing weeds at North Mountain Park required staff to rototill them out and staff struggled to keep the fields in good enough condition for varsity teams. Lewis agreed to an extended trial period and the elimination of signage restrictions. Seffinger expressed concern about safety issues at North Mountain Park fields and concurred about the posting changes. Eggers said the commission might need to accept less tidiness in the Parks system. She also said the commission could look at the system in terms of planting differently to reduce the need for pesticides. Rosenthal said he did not know how to quantify a “fair” trial period as it would rain every year. He said the commission had high hopes for the new policy but the organics did not work well and the commission needed to be responsive to those results. He voiced willingness to make exceptions to the policy in certain areas and use synthetic products. Landt said the presentation by Thayer showed a slide with pesticide-free parks and that was not an appropriate designation as the commission voted in a synthetic-free park system. He suggested showing a slide indicating where synthetics were used (if applicable) and where they were not used.
MOTION: Landt moved to approve a revision to the Parks Commission’s IPM policy to allow for the use of non-synthetic pesticides, per label instructions, in all parks at staff’s discretion with the exception of limitations imposed by other regulatory bodies. He further moved to approve changing signage requirements to allow informational signs to be posted at the time of application only and to eliminate date restrictions for applications of non-synthetic pesticides, allowing for their use throughout the year per label instructions. Seffinger seconded the motion.
The vote was: All yes
The commission discussed the staff request for exemptions in certain areas maintained by Parks, including miles of median strips, parking lots, infields at North Mountain Park, the Ashland Airport, Ashland Community Hospital, for noxious weed control, and for weed abatement in reducing fuels per Ashland Fire and Rescue. They acknowledged that staff currently utilized its IPM policy in all areas maintained by the Parks Department, even those not controlled by Parks, and that results of non-synthetics might not meet the standards of other regulatory bodies.
Rosenthal said the infields at North Mountain Park, a matter of civic pride, were a safety concern due to overgrowths of weeds. He said the warning tracks that went from line to line were an embarrassment. He suggested using synthetics in both areas but only as a last resort in the warning tracks. Landt said that if people concerned about pesticide avoided the infields, they could limit their exposure to pesticides at North Mountain Park. He suggested using steam or burning procedures for the warning tracks. Seffinger said she could support synthetics on the infields, as their current condition posed a safety hazard.
MOTION: Rosenthal moved to authorize staff to utilize synthetic pesticides only as a last resort to create a safe playing environment at the infields and warning tracks of North Mountain Park and Hunter Park Lewis seconded the motion.
The vote was: Rosenthal and Lewis – yes
Eggers, Landt and Seffinger - no
MOTION: Landt moved to authorize staff to use synthetic pesticides only as a last resort to create a safe playing environment at the infields of North Mountain Park.
The vote was: All yes
MOTION: Lewis moved to direct staff to develop a tiered system for use at next year’s annual IPM policy review. Rosenthal seconded the motion.
Discussion of Motion:
Commissioners requested additional information from staff before voting on the motion. The commission was advised by the City Attorney that a motion could be postponed until a definite future date.
MOTION: Landt moved to postpone the motion discussion until the next regular commission meeting. Seffinger seconded the motion.
The vote was: All yes
Robertson presented a number of Parks properties in a state of disrepair posing safety hazards. He said the budget process included the need to discuss proposed expenditures beyond normal operating expenses. He said the ending fund balance for FY 2011-12 was estimated between $450,000 and $550,000 and staff was requesting direction about how to use the funds for specific or non-specific projects. Properties requiring maintenance included Garfield Park, Clay Street Park, Sherwood Park, Hunter Park and the Daniel Meyer Pool buildings and sidewalks, and the Lithia Park Enders Shelter. He referenced a handout showing five options, A-E, with Option A depicting deferred maintenance projects at parks and their estimated repair costs. Options B-E included repairs of the Central Irrigation System, Garfield Park waterplay feature replacement, transfer of a portion of the CIP, and a reduction in the tax rate. He said Option A came in at $426,000 and included project management costs while each remaining option was estimated to cost $500,000.
Discussion Among Commissioners
Commissioners expressed support for Option A. Landt suggested removing from the list the replacement of the Sherwood Park playground structure and adding repairs to the Calle Guanajuato surface, a serious safety concern. Robertson said the Calle resurfacing project was not included on the Option A list because it appeared on the CIP list for FY 2012-2013.
The commission directed staff to revise the list and bring it back to the commission at their next meeting.
SUBCOMMITTEE and STAFF REPORTS
Design and Maintenance Standards Staff Update
Dickens referenced handouts showing each park area in Ashland and its level of maintenance. He reported working with Landt on preliminary design standards. Landt suggested forming an ad hoc committee to review design and maintenance standards throughout the parks system. Lewis agreed to join Landt and Dickens in developing preliminary design and maintenance standards.
New Recreation Coordinator
Dials said she recently extended an offer of employment to a new Recreation Coordinator, Lonny Flora. She said Lonny, who had a background in parks and recreation, would begin his employment on February 29, 2012. Rosenthal said Lonny worked at Medford Parks and Recreation for three years and would be a great hire for the Ashland Parks Department.
ITEMS FROM COMMISSIONERS
UPCOMING MEETING DATES
Study session set for March 19 at 7:00 p.m., Parks Office, 340 S. Pioneer Street.
Regular meeting set for March 26 at 7:00 p.m., Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street.
By consensus, with no further business, Eggers adjourned the meeting at 9:22 p.m.
Ashland Parks and Recreation