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Parks Commission Study Session

Minutes
Monday, November 16, 2015

City of Ashland
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
STUDY SESSION
MINUTES
November 16, 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

CALL TO ORDER
Gardiner called the Study Session to order at 7:00 p.m. at The Grove, 1195 E. Main Street.
 
UNFUNDED PROJECTS PRIORITIZATION AND REVIEW
Black introduced a list of Unfunded Projects, compiled at the request of the Commission. The list would aid staff in tracking unanticipated but worthy projects for possible funding or future action. Repairs at the Oak Knoll Golf Course Clubhouse were listed as the top priority by staff, primarily because of the critical nature of structural damages to roof supports above the deck. The estimated cost of repairs was set at $40,000, with the actual figure being determined following completion of a contracted structural engineering evaluation.
 
Funding for clubhouse repairs was identified within the Golf Course budget. An original cart path budget of $120,000 had been reduced to $60,000, leaving $60,000 for other uses. With the cart path currently over 30% complete and all project materials purchased, the budget surplus could be earmarked for the clubhouse.
 
Black said clubhouse repairs could be categorized as a capital project or an operational maintenance expense. If repairs resulted in an enhancement or expansion of the clubhouse building, the funds would be a capital investment. If no enhancements were necessary or approved, repairs would be funded from operations.        
 
Helman Elementary School tennis courts were the second item noted on the Unfunded Projects list. The resurfacing project was currently in negotiations between Ashland School District (ASD) and the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission (APRC). Black shared a letter written to ASD Superintendent Jay Hummel committing Parks funds to the restoration of the courts as long as the courts remained dedicated for tennis. He noted that resurfacing the courts would result in protection of an asset the public considered important. Black recommended prompt action due to the sensitivity of the partnership.             
 
Ashland Creek Park additions were next on the list, including both the installation of a swing set and the creation of a creek overlook at the newly developed Ashland Creek Park, for a total cost of $8,000. Improvements would include a decomposed granite trail leading to a shaded area in which a bench would be placed for comfort and enjoyment of the riparian area. Black said the estimated budget assumed that materials and labor would be supplied in-house.
 
Winburn Way sidewalk calculations were estimated at $6.00 per square foot multiplied by the sidewalk length and width. $100,000 was projected for the project, including design and contingencies. Actual costs would depend upon the design as well as engineering calculations.         
 
$250,000 was budgeted for a second Dog Park, planned for the lower Clay Street area and adjacent to the YMCA Park. Black stated that budget numbers included funds transferred from the Winburn Way sidewalk project. Approximately $110,000 was budgeted for the second Dog Park.   
 
To complete the list of projects, Butler-Perozzi Fountain repairs were listed as necessary and somewhat urgent. Black explained that the fountain’s deterioration was extensive and the structure would soon become too expensive to repair. Approximately $70,000 was budgeted for the project, far short of the estimated $500,000 needed. In addition, the $70,000 balance would not become available until 2017.          
 
Black commented that aside from the $500,000+ needed for the Butler-Perozzi Fountain, approximately $200,000 was needed to complete the listed projects. Funding for the fountain would require special consideration, but funding for remaining projects was potentially feasible.       
 
Two projects were listed in the Parking Lot category. Both projects would require further vetting and discussion prior to possible inclusion in the Unfunded Projects list. Black recommended discussing the projects in separate study sessions. As capital projects, they would be subject to a rigorous approval process that included approval by the Commission, a review by the Citizen’s Budget Committee and final adoption by Ashland City Council.     
 
Discussion among Commissioners
In reply to a question by Lewis, Landt reviewed the rationale for building a bridge for public access to Ashland Pond.  He explained that currently there was no legal access to Ashland Pond because a section of the road to the Pond was owned privately and an existing access road was a utility road and not available to the public. At one time a temporary bridge had provided a detour via a crossing over Ashland Creek. The temporary bridge had increased traffic in the area, causing complaints from adjacent property owners. The bridge was subsequently removed.  
 
Landt outlined efforts to obtain easements toward a more permanent solution, not only to provide access to the pond but also as a way to facilitate a walking trail. Negotiations between APRC and the three affected property owners were challenging. Landt detailed the constraints for each property, suggesting that a possible workaround would be a second bridge bypassing the properties. He described the possibilities for easements, proposing the workaround as an alternative option only if negotiations failed.        
 
Black noted that negotiating the easements could include a property line adjustment, the sale of City property to one property owner and a purchase of land from another property owner. Funds for the purchase of land could come from SDCs or monies set aside for land purchases. There followed a brief discussion of the value of easements, the amount of square footage in the associated properties and the possibility that the property exchanges might be equitable enough that no additional funds would be needed. 
 
Gardiner recommended moving the project from the Parking Lot to Unfunded Projects and assigning a low priority while the matter was sorted out. Shaw recommended a focused study session to allow for further discussion. Lewis advocated for replacing the original bridge to provide greater connectivity. Landt recommended new negotiations in the near future, with the bypass bridge listed as a back-up plan only. Black agreed to provide a presentation with aerial views and a narrative describing the plans as two projects.      
 
Lewis suggested moving the two largest projects from the Unfunded Projects category to the Parking Lot. Doing so would facilitate completion of smaller projects such as the bridge, shade structure, swing set and overlook for Ashland Creek Park as well as the Helman tennis court resurfacing. He stated that potentially all of the smaller projects could be funded with currently available monies. He indicated his preference for further discussion about funding sources for the second Dog Park.  
 
Gardiner noted that providing a shaded area in Ashland Creek Park was proposed as an additional project after receiving feedback from citizens about the lack of shade at the new park. He said trees would provide enough shade over time but not while the park was in its infancy. Currently, people were reluctant to frequent the park or the park’s play area because there were no provisions for getting out of the sun.
 
Black clarified that the tentative budget for a shade feature was subject to change depending upon the solution. He stated that $20,000 had been budgeted for a shade structure for Garfield Park. Using a shade cloth sail instead might alter that figure. Dickens highlighted the popularity of shade sails but noted that installation required some engineering.  
 
There followed debate about providing shade for Ashland Creek Park and in Ashland parks generally. The possibility of setting a precedent was reviewed. Gardiner stated that his interest was to provide a shade structure either over or around the playground area to encourage utilization of the park’s amenities. Shaw highlighted the structure at Railroad Park as a way to provide shade where parents could rest while watching children at play. Lewis indicated support for a small covered shelter with a picnic table where people could gather. Further discussion focused on directional shade and the best location for a shade structure at Ashland Creek Park. There was consensus about the project and its validity for placement into the Unfunded Projects list.      

  • Prioritization

Black reviewed criteria for categorizing projects asnecessary” or “desirable.” “Necessary” projects were characterized as projects implemented to continue providing a service. A project could be labeled “necessary” because of structural damage or safety issues, such as the Golf Course Clubhouse, or due to a partnership, as in the case of the Helman Elementary School tennis courts. The Butler-Perozzi Fountain was considered “necessary” due to the extent of its structural deterioration. Black suggested postponing further action on the fountain for the time being, pending determination of a funding source. A final characterization of the “necessary” projects category included protection of an asset. Projects labeled “desirable” were described as expanding or enhancing an APRC offering or service.
 
Black noted that “desirable” projects could be prioritized according to preference. He explained that the second Dog Park was listed within APRC’s goals while the Winburn Way sidewalks, once a matter of priority, were subsequently de-prioritized because those funds were needed elsewhere.
 
Discussion among Commissioners
Shaw spoke in favor of labeling the second Dog Park as a “necessary” project, mainly due to safety. He stated that the currently overcrowded Dog Park posed a safety concern. Landt noted that the $250,000 price tag seemed excessive for the project’s development. Black replied that the $250,000 was a placeholder and not indicative of actual costs. There followed conversation regarding the location and size of the proposed second Dog Park and the identification of features deemed important for the Dog Park. Black referred to the many unknowns that could delay resolution but commented that such uncertainty should not preclude planning for the future.    
 
Lewis suggested moving the Winburn Way and Butler-Perozzi Fountain projects to the Parking Lot because of special considerations. Gardiner described the Parking Lot as similar to a staging area for possible projects that needed vetting or further discussion. He stated that in his opinion, both large and small projects could be listed on the Unfunded List without prejudice. Landt noted that the Winburn Way project and the Butler-Perozzi Fountain project could become part of the Lithia Park Master Plan, thereby reducing the urgency for immediate attention.    
 
Funding options for all identified projects were reviewed and a discussion followed about the clubhouse. Lewis referred to the proposed clubhouse repairs as a redevelopment issue, given that repairing the failed glulams would not fix a faulty design. Black acknowledged that staff continually discussed enhancing existing assets when looking for solutions to structural issues. Enhancing the clubhouse could naturally evolve from plans to repair the damaged structure. It was suggested that if the clubhouse deck could be enclosed to prevent further damage of the structural elements, the project would be considered a capital improvement. The space would be transformed from an outside deck to an additional room within the building. If the fix were simply to repair the damage and refurbish the supports without adding or enclosing the space, the repair would be considered a maintenance project that would be funded through the operations budget. 
 
Gardiner noted that structural repairs at the clubhouse could include fixing the causative problem, thereby eliminating part of the problem and enhancing usability of the facility. He stated that the compromise would most likely be a repair designed to stop the damage from occurring again, with the justification for enhancing the space presented at another time. 
 
Gardiner noted that the Winburn Way sidewalks were, in his opinion, a proposed solution to a safety concern. When it appeared that funding was not available for sidewalks, an interim solution was discussed in which a “sharrow” would be striped along Winburn Way, utilized by both bikers and pedestrians. Black noted that after researching the issue, he realized such striping would not work and the option was dropped. Instead, Black noted that Winburn Way was a public right-of-way, suggesting that a partnership with Public Works might be an appropriate avenue for pursuing a more permanent solution. In addition, Public Works might have access to possible funding from a community development block grant.       
 
Lewis proposed placing the items on the Unfunded Projects list according to dollar amounts, moving from the least expensive projects as the top priorities to the most expensive projects as the lowest priorities. Because clubhouse repairs would be funded by reserves, that project could be listed separately.
 
Landt called for a process to complete the prioritization list. After a brief discussion it was agreed that each Commissioner would submit his list of priorities to Director Black by email. Black would collate the preferences and present them at the business meeting scheduled for Monday, November 23, 2015. The focus for the meeting would be to reach agreement or consensus on project prioritization.     
 
Gardiner noted that there was approximately $180,000 in potential funding for the projects on the list. Additional sources of funding would be sought and applied in priority order whenever possible. There were some concerns about long-term outcomes for the more expensive projects such as the Butler-Perozzi Fountain. A fund balance of $70,000 for Butler-Perozzi would become available in 2017 and discussion focused on whether to apply the money to other projects or keep the funds as seed money toward the approximately $500,000 fountain repair project. Lewis proposed a focused study session to identify sources of funding and to strategize ways to leverage available funds with donations for the project, given its size and scope.      
 
STAFF AND COMMISSIONER COMMENTS

  • Miscellaneous

Shaw commented on the new signs for recycling in parks, stating that the updated signs were well done, attractive and neat. He also expressed appreciation for the flowers at the entrance to Lithia Park. He asked that Dickens convey Shaw’s thanks to Parks staff for the attractive plantings.     
 
Shaw also reported highlights from attending the Oregon Recreation and Park Association conference, noting that APRC had cause to be grateful for the manageable number of homeless issues in the City of Ashland as opposed to Eugene’s extensive homeless situations. He contrasted the two cities, noting that removing camps from the Ashland Pond area did not compare with the broader efforts Eugene was required to undertake. He spoke about large associated costs outlined by City of Eugene staff for keeping riverfronts and park areas clean.  
 
Finally Shaw expressed appreciation for the partnership Director Black was cultivating with the Ashland School District. 

  • Lithia Park Ice Rink

Dials said the soft opening of the Ashland Rotary Centennial Ice Rink in Lithia Park was slated for Wednesday, November 18. The official opening celebration would be held on Saturday, November 21, from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. Dials invited those present to attend, stating that the event would highlight interesting uses for the rink such as hockey and ice dancing. All attendees would have the opportunity to skate. 
 
Shaw reminded the Commission that the Japanese-style Garden gateway opening celebration and tea ceremony would also be held on November 18th beginning at 2:00 p.m. 
 
ADJOURNMENT 
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:55 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 and Regular meetings are digitally recorded.   

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