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Parks & Recreation Commission (View All)

Parks Commission Study Session

Minutes
Monday, May 16, 2016

City of Ashland
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
STUDY SESSION MINUTES
May 16, 2016

ATTENDEES
Present:  Commissioners Gardiner, Lewis, Miller, Shaw; Director Black; Superintendents Dickens and Dials; Executive Assistant Dyssegard; Assistant Manuel
 
Also Present:  Parks Projects Manager Minica
 
Absent:  Commissioner Landt; City Council Liaison Mayor Stromberg
 
CALL TO ORDER  
Chair Gardiner called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. at The Grove, 1195 E. Main Street
 
PUBLIC INPUT
There was none.
 
CLAY STREET DOG PARK DISCUSSION
Black reviewed the process to date, highlighting a successful effort to obtain public comments about the dog park.

He displayed a graph quantifying the commentaries into two sections: traffic safety at 27% and design comments at 73%.
 
Black noted that the next step after Commission approval would be to submit a pre-application to the Ashland Planning Department for evaluation and commentary. Planning would consider potential traffic counts to determine whether a peak hour analysis would be necessary. Black added that the number of trips generated for the new use would be low and the impact on traffic safety minimal.        
 
Discussion among Commissioners
Shaw stated that in his experience, Clay Street is much safer now than in past years, before the installation of sidewalls and other safety measures. He referenced other streets in Ashland and said Clay Street was typical.
 
Black remarked that some Ashland streets were purposely narrowed to calm traffic. The impact of adding a dog park on lower Clay Street would be minimal in his opinion.       
 
Lewis agreed, stating that he was satisfied with the public input, which would assist Commissioners in their decision-making process. He noted that the Ashland Planning Department might consider APRCís proposed plans to add parking stalls unnecessary. He suggested further discussion about parking, the play area and restrooms. 
 
Black said comments about habitat preservation resulted in an effort to protect some of the space for that reason. While the birds in that location were not migratory or endangered, they were important to the neighborhood. Black addressed the tiny houses for the homeless advocated by a resident, noting that the City planned to build moderate income housing nearby.
 
Black referenced APRCís ownership of the restroom and play area at the adjacent YMCA Park, both considered valuable assets, and suggested possibly setting aside funds for upgrades or replacement of those facilities in BN 17-19. He said the proposed distance from the dog park to the restrooms measured just under five hundred feet. Black said the YMCA restrooms allow for handicapped accessibility.
 
Lewis expressed a concern about facility upgrades or refurbishment, noting their significant budget impacts.
 
There followed a brief discussion about the remainder of the public comments. A request for alternative fencing was reviewed and various options considered. It was noted that vinyl coated chain link was the least intrusive option and remained attractive with minimal maintenance.
 
Lewis led a discussion about adding value to unused plots within the parcel. These could be utilized for community gardens or other community-based amenities such as a grassy area for children to play and picnic tables, which would also encourage visits to the property.
 
Other matters, such as changes to the pathways granting access to varied uses, were discussed. Black called for direction regarding consensus on potential uses. He stated that more elaborate plans could be earmarked for future enhancements. It was generally accepted that grassy areas with picnic tables could be integrated into the project design. Shelters could be planned for future upgrades. Slight differences in grading and re-sizing of the small and large dog park area were discussed and changes to the trails throughout the property were examined. A second path could provide connectivity to all major uses. 
 
Black suggested changing the 90-degree parking depicted on Villard Street until McCall Street could be completed. A parking area alongside the new section of roadway would leave room for approximately ten parking stalls in addition to on-street parking. This would result in no removal of on-street parking along Engle Street and would not affect the amount of property available for park development. For budget reasons, Black recommended using the existing fencing on three sides with the vinyl-covered chain link on the side closest to residential properties. Another cost-saving advantage would be the proposed minimal grading changes. 
 
Commissioners asked further questions as they reviewed design and spacing elements in terms of the communityís needs. Rights of way and easements were examined for ramifications, both long-term and short-term. A more extensive conversation about fencing was deliberated to ensure a safe environment for the dog park. Guidelines from the American Kennel Association were reviewed.     
 
Black noted that the concept plan would remain in place until vetted by the Ashland Planning Department. Actual site plan preparation would occur after that process was completed. The projected timeline for completion of the pre-application process was June 25, 2016. Black highlighted ongoing negotiations with the YMCA regarding their use of the property, stating that converting the property into a neighborhood park might change current uses in the future. 
 
Shaw suggested future expansion and enhancement of the existing playground. Black affirmed that possibility, stating that the play area was underdeveloped and there was room for expansion. Black also focused on the value and significance of the restrooms adjacent to the play area. Shaw explained his vision to maximize use of the facilities through the use of signage to direct people to the various amenities. He advocated for parking at the YMCA parking lot so dog owners could make use of the facilities and walk their dogs to the dog park. Black agreed, stating that part of APRCís mission was to promote healthful activities for the community.       
 
Lewis called for re-examination of the agreement with the YMCA, with possible re-negotiation of the contract.  

He applauded the parking solution, noting its win-win characteristics. Dials referenced the value of trip markers for the property. Gardiner summarized the public comments, noting that APRC was responding through the changes discussed. Black highlighted the City of Ashland guideline about providing neighborhood parks within a quarter-mile of all Ashland residents. Shaw advocated for better utilization of the existing facilities. Black stated that there were no restrictions to using the facilities.   
 
RECREATIONAL IMMUNITY DISCUSSION
Dickens explained that recreational immunity was a provision that protected public and private property owners from liabilities should someone be injured on the property. It began in 1986 when the courts ruled in favor when a swimmer went swimming on private property and received injuries diving into a lake that was unsuitable for that use. The plaintiff sued because there was no signage posted to warn people that the lake was unsafe. The verdict in favor stated that the private property owner was not at fault. 
 
Dickens stated that although recreational immunity was not intended for municipalities, it became common practice. 

Recreational immunity originally protected against negligence and subsequently was applied to include public facilities. Determination of guilt or innocence was determined on a case-by-case basis.  
 
Recently, the Oregon Supreme Court reviewed a case whereby a legally blind runner fell into a hole left by an employee who was working on an irrigation line. While the Supreme Court noted the existence of recreational immunity, the ruling was that the injured plaintiff was deserving of compensation. The plaintiffís argument was that an employee (not a municipality) caused an unsafe situation and therefore compensation was sought from the employee and his supervisor. 
 
Dickens relayed that this ruling had profound implications for municipalities Ė particularly for those who indemnify their employees. He gave an Ashland example of an unsafe situation in Hunter Park. At the time, sidewalks in that park were unsafe due to broken bits of concrete caused by tree roots. Calling attention to the area by clearly marking the damages with orange paint and signage warning of the danger was the only possible solution until funding could be obtained for repairs.     
 
CIS (City/County Insurance Services) provided a list of actions to take to minimize the potential for lawsuits. The Supreme Court ruling applied only to parks where no fee was charged for entrance. For APRC this meant that the Daniel Meyer pool and the Golf Course were not immune and never had been. In todayís world if an employee was negligent and an accident occurred, then recreational immunity no longer offered protection.
 
CIS recommended the following:
∑         Evaluate all facilities and identify those facilities that are in need of maintenance or repair.
∑         Prepare signage for those areas that cannot be repaired right away.
∑         Develop a hazard treatment improvement plan for each facility. Dickens noted that APRC would begin with playgrounds because there are so many. A responsible employee would be assigned to oversee each facility, monitoring the potential hazards frequently. A checklist would be developed for each facility to quantify the assessments. 
∑         Review all prior accidents or incidents to detect any common patterns or issues. APRC plans to review the past five years.
∑         Close parks that are in disrepair. Dickens stated that there were no parks in Ashland that warrant such action, but if a section becomes damaged all precautions will be taken, including closure.  
∑         Enforce the helmet laws and other restrictions in high-risk areas.
∑         Charge a fee for park maintenance. Dickens commented that it would be difficult to implement in Ashland unless a new tax was supported by residents.  
∑         Require large groups to provide insurance for special events held in a park.
 
In response to a question by Gardiner, Dickens stated that the City indemnifies its employees.
 
There followed discussion about various scenarios, from negligence to timeframes for repairs. Black explained that an employee who did not repair a hazard when assigned to do so would be liable. Other questions pertained to park directives and enforcement issues in relation to an organizationís accountability. For APRC that includes training employees to respond if the rules are disregarded such as walking an off-leash dog in a park that prohibits unrestrained dogs. Dickens highlighted protocols that would assist employees in handling potential conflicts.      
 
Lewis asked about budgetary concerns with regard to implementing new processes and procedures in response to the new ruling. He inquired specifically about the possibilities for losing services or losing project funding because of an expensive repair. Black replied that because resources are limited, they must be prioritized. He noted that the League of Oregon Cities is working on legislation that would offer more protections and limit liability. Dickens discussed ways to limit liability with proper signage and ways to prepare people for known challenges. An advanced bike trail, for example, should introduce typical hazards at the beginning of the ride to enable participants to decide whether their level of skill is up to the challenge.     
       
 STAFF REPORTS

  • Interagency Indoor pool
Black said he attended at a Facilities Planning Meeting for the Ashland School District and heard a high level of support for a regional pool. School Superintendents for Ashland and Phoenix/Talent school districts were also supportive.
  • Mosquito Larvae
Dickens reported that testing for mosquito larvae was conducted and few specimens had been found. He stated that the duck ponds were clear but some larvae had been found in Golf Course ponds. 
  • Garfield Park Water Feature
Shaw inquired about timelines for the new Garfield Park water feature. Minica replied that the existing splash pad would be used for the summer season and was up and running. Construction on the new pad was slated to begin in September. 
  • BMX Park
Shaw reported some disarray, asking about construction in that area. Dickens replied that an Eagle Scout project was focused on re-grading the area for improved safety and better drainage. They added benches and signage as well. The project was expected to be completed in the near future.   
  • Siskiyou de Mayo
Dials reported on a successful event, stating that the afternoon brought approximately 200 people out to participate in the dancing, music and fun.
  • Climbing Structure in Lithia Park
In response to a question by Gardiner, Dickens noted that the netting would be replaced. He stated that the structure itself was intact. 
  • 2016 Ashland Forest Plan
Commissioner Miller reported that the plan would be presented to Ashland City Council on May 17, 2016, for final approval.
  • Park Patrol

Dials reported that Park Patrol was currently in training for the upcoming summer season and their first event would be the Ashland High School Graduation on June 3, 2016.
 
UPCOMING MEETING DATES
Gardiner announced that an executive session would be conducted on May 23, 2016, at 6:00 p.m.
   
ADJOURNMENT
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 9:05 p.m.
 
Respectfully submitted,
  

Betsy Manuel, Assistant
 
 
 
The Minutes are not a verbatim record. The narrative has been condensed and paraphrased at times to reflect the discussions and decisions made. Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission Study Sessions and Regular meetings are digitally recorded and are available upon online.
 

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