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Parks Commission Study Session Minutes

Minutes
Monday, July 15, 2013

 
City of Ashland
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
STUDY SESSION MINUTES
July 15, 2013

ATTENDANCE
Present:    Commissioners Gardiner, Landt, Lewis, Seffinger, Shaw; City Council Liaison Voisin; Director Robertson; Superintendents Dials and Dickens
Absent:      None

CALL TO ORDER
Seffinger called the study session to order at 7:06 p.m. in the Parks office, 340 S. Pioneer Street.

SKATE PARK DISCUSSION
Robertson welcomed members of the public. He apologized for an earlier comment at the May 20 regular meeting when a citizen complained about Parks staff watching cement dry at the Skate Park. He said when he stated that Parks did not do that type of thing, he was in error. He later learned that City policy dictated having a City staff member remain on-site following cement pours.

Robertson said he would present a slideshow and then the commission would take public input.

Robertson’s slideshow included photos depicting park patrons enjoying the facility; erosion of the infrastructure; compaction of the surrounding area; graffiti on many surfaces; drainage problems; and destruction and vandalism of signage. Robertson said some jurisdictions allowed their skate park graffiti to remain on surfaces as they considered it a part of the culture; however, the City of Ashland required removal within 24 hours. Robertson said in earlier years, due to a fatality at the Skate Park, chaperones in the form of Park Patrol were stationed at the facility from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the week, with skate helmets and equipment loaned out and rules enforced. Subsequent budget cuts led to the removal of enforcement patrols. He talked about the close proximity of the park to Ashland Creek and staff’s sensitivity to products used, as anything could end up in the creek.

Upcoming improvements were reported to include:
  • Additional drainage upgrades
  • Replacement of a bench in a shady spot
  • Painting of a steel rail
  • Replacement of a street-side trash receptacle
  • Reinstallation of a water fountain
  • Pruning of low limbs along the back of the park near Ashland Creek
Robertson asked if the facility should remain in the same spot or be moved to another section of the City.

Public Input

Kathleen and Zachary Kane, 385 Kearney Street, reported spending many hours at the Skate Park and said they appreciated it for its multiple uses (bikes, scooters, skateboards). They praised the facility, said it was in the right location, and indicated that a few people caused problems for the majority. Kathleen said a surveillance camera was used at the Grants Pass skate park and it deterred illegal activity. Zachary asked for a drain near the rail (to improve drainage and allow for safer tricks) and the reinstallation of a drinking fountain.

David Tourzan, 395 Granite Street, said he participated in Skate Park cleanups but knew how quickly the park got cluttered. He asked the commission to distribute badges for volunteer cleanup and patrol efforts and suggested creating a culture of togetherness. He said the park was one of the friendliest skate parks in the valley and while its location was less than ideal, it was a great facility. He said once gloves and bags were distributed, park users would help clean it up.

 
Charlie Shoemaker, 253 Cambridge, agreed with the previous speaker and said he visited the park at least three times a week. He expressed interest in helping with park cleanups and said his children appreciated the facility. He reported notifying the police about swearing and smoking he observed. He said the Ashland Skate Park was the only shaded skate park in southern Oregon. He voiced support for the park’s current location and said he appreciated its close proximity to Ashland Creek and the downtown area.

Earl Wagner, 258 A Street, said the price of a banged-up sign or graffiti didn’t compare to the value provided by the park. He said profanity (a cultural element at the park) had decreased and most youth behaved well. He said the law seemed to go after helmet enforcement rather than the “vibe” at the park. He said the Ashland Skate Park was a world-class facility and people came from all over to skate there. He suggested placing a surveillance camera at the park to deter patrons from violating the rules.

 
Courtlandt Jennings, 1169 Hillview Drive, thanked the commission and staff for their efforts and agreed with Tourzan’s point about placing responsibility for park cleanliness and rule enforcement on community members. He suggested an ad hoc committee comprised of skateboarders and staff. He said his business along Water Street faced the park and he had a good view of park activities. His suggestions included: replacing the Water Street bridge; reinstalling a water fountain; asking park users for feedback on skate park topics like drainage and vandalism; not using a surveillance camera as it would only get vandalised; having Park Patrol on duty from 3:00 p.m. until park closure for rule enforcement and vandalism prevention; planting shade trees in two spots; reinstalling a park bench; placing borders around Oregon grape with mulch to define the space better; installing porous hardscape; and additional watering of the plantings.

Chris Bourne, 999 Holton Road in Talent, said he and his son had skated at the park for years. He voiced appreciation for a regular Park Patrol presence because it curbed alcohol and drug use and he asked for more patrols. He said most skaters did not behave badly and he agreed that a camera would not last long. He said the park was beautiful and one of the nicest skate parks he’d ever used. He asked for the drain to be drilled in the correct spot. He thanked the commission for the opportunity to discuss the Skate Park. He asked for a list to be compiled of speakers and interested persons willing and able to assist staff and the commission.  

 
Discussion Among Commissioners
Lewis: Heard the public asking for the park to remain in the same location. The existing park could be upgraded and improved in the same location. His granddaughter skated there and enjoyed the park. Vandalism was ongoing and the “vibe” subjective. A water fountain, improvements to landscaping, and park cleanups could be facilitated through the Volunteer Coordinator. Lewis voiced appreciation for members of the public who showed up and expressed their thoughts.

Gardiner: Asked why the park was vandalized more than any other park in the City.

Bourne said some of the vandalism was caused by skaters, despite some comments to the contrary, with skaters smashing signage, sides of buildings, and more. Wagner said some skaters were tough and not the type to join sports teams. Jennings said there were street lights on Water Street but the Water Street corridor could attract certain types of people. He said open fields of concrete might invite graffiti artists. Tourzan talked about stewardship and changing the culture.

 
Shaw: Reported visiting the park and watching improvements and repairs occurring over the past few months. Requested the reinstallation of a water fountain and suggested placing a surveillance camera on the building across the street (the Pickled Planet, owned by Jennings).

Landt: Requested a drinking fountain at the Skate Park and said the drainage problem was caused by a design flaw. The park was not placed in a good location and any future relocation would need to be planned well in advance, with trees planted ahead of time and the park more visible. A fence placed creek-side would help protect the creek and prevent erosion but a fence was not permitted. Appreciation was expressed for moms, dads and kids showing up and speaking to the topic. Landt said a community and family park was a great thing but the park needed to be moved away from the crown jewel of Ashland: Ashland Creek.

 
Seffinger: Invited members of the public to contact Volunteer Coordinator Lori Ainsworth to get enrolled as volunteers at the Ashland Skate Park.

Dickens said a new drinking fountain would be installed soon and signs were being treated with a new material to aid with vandalism cleanups.

Jennings reported seeing skaters regularly drinking from the water spigot on his building, the Pickled Planet and said it was costing him money. He made suggestions about planting more trees on the western side of the park and not over-pruning trees and shrubs at the park.

Seffinger said the commission would continue making improvements at the park. She asked members of the public to talk to Ainsworth and Dickens and contact the commission with any further suggestions.

JAPANESE GARDEN DISCUSSION
Seffinger said Ann Auble donated funds for a Japanese Garden gateway and the commission discussed materials at an earlier meeting. Staff was then directed to call the donor to ask about her preferences with regard to materials. Robertson spoke with Auble and her daughter and specifically addressed the notion of using steel versus wood for the sake of reduced maintenance and better longevity. Auble subsequently prepared a letter asking for mostly wood with a small amount of steel and possibly some reinforced concrete.

Discussion Among Commissioners
Landt: Commission and staff moving ahead with the garden gate project despite a lack of Lithia Park master plan (a commission goal). Appreciation expressed for citizens stepping forward to donate funds toward projects; however, using old growth wood (high maintenance and a limited commodity) did not fit with the City’s sustainability vision. Reported visiting the site and not understanding where the entryway would be located. Asked why staff time was being used for the project.

Lewis: The design was in place and the commission was now discussing materials and color. Steel a good idea due to sustainability concerns and a desire for reduced maintenance. Any future Lithia Park master plan would include a garden portal or entranceway. Lewis suggested moving forward with the project.

Shaw: The commission had been working on and planning to complete the project. Shaw suggested a combination of metal and wood, with metal uprights and large pieces of wood across for the sake of aesthetics.

Seffinger: Installed a similar gateway at her home and knew what was required in terms of maintenance. Would be harder to get donations in the future if projects weren’t completed after donated funds were accepted. Seffinger suggested moving forward using the project design discussed by the commission.

Landt: Pointed out the example of Fire Station #2 and the maintenance required on the wood. Suggested doing better than the City in terms of sustainability. Said the commission was trying to complete projects with an eye toward reductions in future maintenance. Before proceeding, recommended making a site plan view of the structure and determining its elevation and location. Landt said someone was donating time to create a 3-D mockup.

Gardiner suggested moving forward with the project.

Commissioners agreed on the use of some red metal and the need for a site plan. Seffinger suggested presenting an image to the donating family showing what the commission would approve along with an explanation about how the proposal aligned with Japanese history and a rationale for the proposed project and materials.

Architect Steve Ennis said that if the gateway was fabricated and detailed properly, red metal could work well.

AD HOC COMMITTEE UPDATE
Seffinger said a resolution would be presented the following evening at the City Council meeting. She invited Landt to speak to the topic.
 
Landt said council had requested joint council / commission meetings but with the mayor and City Administrator attempting to undercut the commission’s authority by taking over decisions such as the hiring and firing of the Parks Director, joint meetings would not make sense. Slattery felt that some community members also held those perceptions so he wrote a draft resolution and shared it with Seffinger and one other councilor. Slattery would present his resolution the following evening at the council meeting. Landt said this would give council the opportunity to go on record about their stance regarding Parks management and other Parks matters.

Voisin expressed concern about the manner in which the topic arose and said it posed a procedural issue, as council usually discussed topics at study sessions before deciding whether to place them on regular meeting agendas. Additional concern was voiced about a lack of Ad Hoc Committee involvement.

Landt said this would be a positive step and he hoped council would approve it. If procedural concerns prevented its moving forward, it would be a disappointment Seffinger agreed and said the resolution would make it easier for the Ad Hoc Committee to successfully focus on the next tasks at hand without fearing unspoken intentions. Landt said 100 years of history would be overturned if the Parks director’s hiring was transferred from the Parks Commission’s authority. Shaw said this was a beginning effort and a good start and he appreciated the attempt to put on record the entity responsible for Parks directors’ hiring. Gardiner said he wanted to see the resolution move forward. Seffinger said she hoped the resolution would proceed so the Ad Hoc Committee could continue with its fine work.

Housekeeping Items
Ice Rink Cover
Robertson said staff had been working with Noel Lesley Company to find a temporary ice rink cover. The cost would range from $150-$250,000 but was budgeted at $122,000. The cover would go out to bid in the next few weeks.

Enders Shelter Project
Dickens presented a short slideshow featuring photos of the Enders Shelter project. Robertson said the roof was removed in two days and the original beams were bright and clean. Ennis provided additional project details. Landt asked for the Bobcat machine to be stored overnight on a concrete or asphalt surface. He thanked Dickens and Ennis for moving forward with project completion.

Atkinson Bridge Project
Dickens said the Atkinson Bridge was undergoing historical preservations and all repairs were cosmetic rather than structural or safety-related. He said contractor Jim Oleson would provide a proposal on the footings.

Parks Director Salary Survey
Seffinger asked for a salary survey for the Parks director position. She said the Ashland director’s salary was low as compared with other City of Ashland department heads and the topic would be discussed at a future study session.

ADJOURNMENT
By consensus, Seffinger adjourned the meeting at 9:05 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

 
Susan Dyssegard
Ashland Parks and Recreation

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