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Parks & Recreation Commission (View All)

Parks Commission Study Session

Minutes
Monday, September 21, 2015

City of Ashland
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
STUDY SESSION
MINUTES
September 21, 2015
 

ATTENDANCE

Present:    Commissioners Gardiner, Landt, Lewis, Miller, Shaw; Director Black; Superintendents Dials and Dickens; Administrative Supervisor Dyssegard and Assistant Manuel

Absent:     City Council Liaison, Mayor Stromberg

OPTIONAL SITE VISIT OF GARFIELD PARK
An optional site visit to Garfield Park, hosted by Black and Dickens, included both Commissioners and APRC staff.
 
Black distributed a colored schematic of Garfield Park illustrating current and proposed uses within the park. Each use was examined and proposed changes discussed. Particular attention was paid to the position of the trees, and efforts to shelter them from harm during construction. One tree would be removed to make way for the expanded splash pad.
 
Dickens led the discussion about expanding the basketball court. Five-foot boundaries could be added, changing the dimensions from 64’ X 50’ to 94’ X 60’.  It was noted that the expanded court would not significantly impact other uses within the park. New basketball nets would be spring-loaded and new acrylic backboards would better resist vandalism. Benches could be added for game watching. Black noted that there had been some discussion about adding a skateboard feature between the basketball court and the water play area; however, such limited space was restrictive. Black said that section could be reserved for a future shelter and used for gatherings such as family picnics, birthday parties and other events.
 
The site of the expanded splash pad, its dimensions and associated amenities were reviewed. This included development of a grass berm, partial fencing and seating walls. Consideration was given to the space adjacent to the splash pad where a small dog park was proposed. Discussion ensued about the pros and cons of converting the 25’ X 100’ space for this purpose.
 
A new shelter for the Cascade-Siskiyou Scenic Bikeway was reviewed and pictures of the proposed 20’ X 20’ bike shelter displayed. It was noted that the new amenity would not only showcase Ashland’s designated scenic bikeway, it would encourage local residents to ride their bikes to family outings or other events at the park.        

CALL TO ORDER

Gardiner called the Study Session to order at 7:00 p.m. at The Grove, 1195 E. Main Street.
 
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION / NON-AGENDA COMMENTS 
Kristina LeFever, 2359 Blue Sky Lane, was called forward.
 
Ms. LeFever highlighted her affiliations with the Bee City USA Subcommittee, Pollinator Project Rogue Valley and the newly formed Advocates for Healthy Landscapes (AHL), noting that she was speaking for all concerned members.
 
LeFever recognized the work previously developed by concerned citizens prior to the formation of AHL. She emphasized the accomplishments of this organization that resulted in a significant reduction of harmful pesticides.          
 
LeFever also acknowledged APRC’s thoughtful response to community requests for reductions in pesticide use, and for substituting safer alternatives.
 
LeFever reported that AHL scheduled a presentation at an Ashland City Council Study Session on October 5, 2015. The group would ask City officials to pass a Resolution encouraging residents to discontinue the use of glyphosates and 2 4-D pesticides in favor of safer chemicals. LeFever indicated that the World Health Organization recently published a new study labeling glyphosate products as carcinogenic. In the study, pesticide 2 4-D was also listed as a possible carcinogen.    
 
LeFever asked for the APRC’s public acknowledgement to Council about its support for AHL and AHL’s research into the harmful effects of glyphosate products in both pesticides and herbicides as researched and prepared by AHL. LeFever said AHL was developing a process for educating the community about the dangers of glyphosates and 2 4-D, and in substituting safer alternatives for landscape management.
 
Discussion among Commissioners
There followed a brief discussion about next steps in APRC’s support of AHL. Landt suggested that LeFever attend the next regular APRC meeting to reiterate AHL’s request, allowing for broader public awareness. 
 
Lewis noted the proactive approach APRC achieved in the past by setting policies for reduced pesticide and herbicide use in Ashland’s parks. He said such a comprehensive change could be considered a guide for the City as a whole.   
 
GARFIELD PARK MASTER PLAN DISCUSSION
Black reviewed each proposed upgrade, retrofit and feature depicted in the Garfield Park Master Plan. Details included a new splash pad (approximately twice as large as the existing structure) and new amenities such as picnic tables, covered shelters, benches, sitting walls and planters designed to protect existing trees. Black outlined a proposed enlargement of the sand volleyball court and plans to add a concrete retaining wall around portions of the court along with new sand. Foot wash stations could be placed at exits to reduce the amount of sand transferred from the court into grassy areas and the splash pad. A grassy berm between the volleyball court and the splash pad would provide extra seating for spectators. The basketball court would be expanded to include five-foot boundaries on all sides of the regulation-sized court.    
 
Black noted that the space adjacent to the basketball court, though initially considered suitable for skateboard amenities, was later considered inadequate for such use. He suggested a more practical amenity such as a covered picnic shelter that could be used for events such as birthday parties and picnics away from the sun. Black described the shelters as having metal roofs and round tables surrounded by seating. He said no shelters were currently provided at the park.
 
Black pointed out other areas suitable for future shelters, including one in front of the splash pad. He noted that the splash pad shelter could either be moved from the basketball area or remain as planned. The concrete surround for the splash pad could also be used as a seating wall. Existing restrooms would remain in place and require minimal upgrades or repairs.
 
The sand volleyball court would be expanded from its current size of 87’ x 80 to 99’ X 84’ and the wooden retaining wall would be replaced. Dickens noted that volleyball nets could be adjusted to accommodate players of all sizes.

Continuing counter-clockwise throughout the park, Black proposed a new bikeway shelter in close proximity to the parking area on California Street. The shelter would function as the starting and ending points for the Cascade-Siskiyou Scenic Bikeway, a fifty-four mile route promoted by Travel Oregon. A bike fix-it station and other amenities would be included within the comfort station. A kiosk for maps and brochures would showcase Ashland’s offerings and entice people to explore the City beyond the bikeway.         
 
Black observed that the proposed Garfield Master Plan (depicting existing uses and future amenities) was not a site plan. Most of the improvements were refurbishments and/or upgrades. Black briefly reviewed cost estimates totaling $849,308. A general breakdown of line item expenditures was as follows:
 
  • Splash pad equipment, construction, furnishings and finishing work totaled $510,000.
  • Improvements to the basketball court including new asphalt, surfacing, benches and the addition of boundaries were estimated at $84,100.
  •  Miscellaneous construction, including sidewalks, bike shelter, volleyball court and dog park came to $96,000.
  •  Additional line items for “mobilization” ($20,703 based on a 3% percentage) and a contingency fund of 10% totaled a combined estimate of $69,010.
  • Optional shelters and finishing materials added another $61,500, bringing the grand total to $849,308.                
Discussion among Commissioners
Landt noted that changes to the plan were positive and staff would make significant efforts to protect existing trees. Landt advocated for finished sidewalks rather than exposed aggregate, stating that the aggregate could pose long-term maintenance concerns.      
 
There followed questions about the location of optional shelters, whether cost estimates included replacement of the sand for the volleyball court, the number of benches and other details. 
 
Gardiner asked about the cost of the benches, leading to a discussion about whether to provide shelter for the benches or defray costs through donations. Shaw suggested reducing the number of benches and replacing them with a picnic shelter instead. Miller indicated that a covered shelter might be more valuable, providing players or spectators with a respite from the sun. It was agreed by consensus that a shelter or two would be preferable.         
 
Public Input 
Rich Norvell, 115 Westwood Street, was called forward.  
Mr. Norvell stated that he was a 23-year Ashland resident. He voiced appreciation for the opportunity to comment on the refurbishment of the volleyball court, adding that the adjustable nets would be very helpful in conducting regulation games. He also praised the high quality of the sand in the court. 
 
Norvell relayed that the current margins of the court were acceptable. He suggested that the money might be better spent on another court within the Parks system, emphasizing the popularity of the sport and increasing pressure as the number of players continued to grow.   
 
Finally, Norvell talked about the proposed dog park, stating that, in his opinion, allowing dogs in such as small space could be problematic.  
 
Joel Heller, 2326 Greenmeadows Way, was called forward.   
Mr. Heller expressed a concern about the proposed concrete seating wall, stating that it would radiate heat, and wood was a more forgiving material. He expressed concern about skateboarders possibly using the wall, thus causing deterioration.
 
Heller spoke to the needs of players, stating that the ability to hose off with a proposed foot wash would be helpful. He asked for an extended volleyball / splash pad season, including the months of May and September.  
 
Discussion among Commissioners and Staff
Commissioner discussion included consideration of the input provided by Norvell and Heller. It was noted that plans for a grass berm directly behind the volleyball retaining wall would deter skateboarders.
 
Black mentioned a proposed expansion of the volleyball court, given public input. Dickens noted that a smaller footprint would allow for a larger grass berm, separating the splash pad from the volleyball court. He indicated that a foot washing unit was available with the additional amenities of a wand for hosing down and a drinking fountain for thirsty players.     
 
Landt voiced appreciation for the public input, with new ideas and uncovered needs expressed. He stated that the input would assist in the development of an improved Master Plan.  
 
Shaw advocated for the off-leash dog area. He referenced the proposed dog park off lower Clay Street as an example of a potential dog park in proximity to a soccer field. He noted that conjoining dogs and people allowed for more family-oriented activities. In Garfield Park the dog park area would remain small, in keeping with the small neighborhood feel of the park. Black added that the off-leash area could create an alternative to the requirement for dogs on leash elsewhere in the Park. It was agreed that dogs would not be allowed in the playground area, a precedent set in other parks and as a safety precaution.   
 
Landt proposed a trial period of a year or two, with an evaluation at trial’s end. If the prototype evaluated as successful, others like it could be tucked into additional Ashland parks. Black said further public comment would be welcome at the APRC regular meeting on September 28.
 
Continued discussion included supplementary details, the renaming of the hardscape areas and adjustments to the budget. Budgetary matters were reviewed: 1) process and choices for seeking a bond as a funding source; 2) setting aside contingency funds from existing revenues; 3) including the funds in the bond amount. Landt noted that the impact of financing the project could limit future projects until bond proceeds were repaid.         
 
Lewis recommended leaving the figures as is in the conceptual plan. He explained that the plan would come together when a site plan was developed and bids were in. Changes could occur at that time. Lewis supported contingency funds to cover unforeseen expenses. He asked that a debt repayment ratio be prepared for added perspective.
 
Black highlighted the projects that would be retired by 2017, explaining that payments for current debt totaled approximately $200,000 annually. The debt service for Garfield Park would be reduced to $60,000 or $70,000 per year when current debt was retired in 2017.  
 
Shaw said interest rates were very low, making it a good time to borrow money. Landt asked about the lead time between the time when the bond was authorized by the Commission and when it was issued.  
Black summarized the pubic agreement process, stating that projects were first conceptualized, a budget was agreed upon and the project went out for bid. If the awarded bid was significantly more than the projected budget, features were removed from the project until it agreed with the projected budget or a new budget was developed to reflect the extra costs.          
 
Landt asked that a line item for landscaping and irrigation be added to the proposed budget as a discussion point at the APRC Regular Meeting.
 
HELMAN SCHOOL TENNIS COURTS DISCUSSION 
Black introduced a request from the Ashland School District regarding use of the tennis courts currently included on the school grounds. Black noted that APRC originally contributed approximately 60% of the cost to build the two courts, along with smaller contributions from the Helman PTA and the State Land and Water Conservation Fund. No intergovernmental agreement was established between the entities for continued upkeep and the courts fell into disrepair. 
 
Helman School recently proposed changing the courts into an “Exploratorium” on one side and a kinder speedway on the other. Black noted that the school was in close proximity to the APRC Nature Center, which provided similar educational opportunities as those proposed for the Exploratorium.
 
Black reported receiving feedback from residents who wished to continue using the Helman tennis courts. He reported that it would take an investment of approximately $5000 – $10,000 to restore the courts; in addition, if APRC decided to continue with the use there would be ongoing maintenance costs. On the other hand, if it was decided to return the courts to the school for their intended use, Black recommended that the property be released quickly as a courtesy. Another option would be to ask that one court remain for tennis players and one court be used by the school for their own purposes. 
 
Discussion among Commissioners
Gardiner noted that APRC had resurfaced the courts at least once since their inception, increasing the value of the APRC investment.
 
Landt confirmed that no contractual agreement was initiated when the courts were created. He referred to an understanding that the area was considered a small neighborhood park. He suggested that APRC contribute new wood chips in the playground as a gesture of good will.
   
Shaw commented that Southern Oregon University (SOU) was not maintaining at least four of their courts, with another four only minimally cared for. Four courts had been eliminated and replaced with new housing on the SOU campus. Players who formerly used the SOU courts now played at Hunter Park. Shaw said it was rumored that SOU planned to build new courts elsewhere but whereabouts and timing were unknown. He advocated for renovating the courts to accommodate SOU, high school students and the general public. He favored a collaborative approach between APRC and the School District. He also suggested that APRC agree to maintain the courts.    
 
Lewis acknowledged that the property was owned by the School District. He reiterated a preference for continued use as tennis courts, while indicating that a compromise might be appropriate. Landt noted that the APRC Comprehensive Plan listed the area as a neighborhood park based upon the original understanding with Helman. He suggested the property had greater value as a public park.          
 
It was agreed that APRC would prefer to refurbish the courts for continued public use and that further talks with the School District should be conducted.
 
STAFF OR COMMISSIONER COMMENTS
Dyssegard announced that the Oregon Recreation and Parks Association (ORPA) was holding its annual conference from November 2-4 at the Portland Hilton. She asked if Commissioners wished to attend.   
 
Gardiner reported on his recent attendance at the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) conference in Las Vegas, NV. His chose sessions relating to senior centers, parks foundations and open stewardship. Dickens noted his attendance and participation in sessions on the design of open spaces, trends for parks in the future and how to improve profits at golf courses. Both found the conference interesting and informative.
 
Dials stated that the Bear Creek Salmon Festival was scheduled for Saturday, October 3, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at North Mountain Park. The event annually celebrated the return of salmon. Dials invited those present to attend.
 
Dials also highlighted the Rogue Valley Transit District’s “Drive Less Challenge” during the month of October. APRC would host a Bike and Walk Breakfast at Ashland’s Railroad Park from 7:30 - 9:30 a.m. on Monday, October 5, for Central Area Bikepath bikers or walkers. APRC would provide snacks and some giveaways.      
                 
ADJOURNMENT 
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 9:09 p.m.  
 
Respectfully submitted,
 
 
Betsy Manuel
 
 
 
The Minutes are not a verbatim record. The narrative has been condensed and paraphrased to reflect the discussions and decisions made. Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission Study Sessions, Special Meetings and Regular meetings are digitally recorded and available upon request.   

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