Agendas and Minutes

Parks & Recreation Commission (View All)

Parks Commission Goal Setting Session

Minutes
Tuesday, February 14, 2017

City of Ashland
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
2017 Strategic Planning and Goal Setting
MINUTES
February 14, 2017

ATTENDANCE
Present: Commissioners Gardiner, Heller, Landt, Lewis, Miller; Director Black; Superintendent Dials; Interim Parks Superintendent McFarland; Assistant Manuel

Absent: Executive Assistant Dyssegard; City Council Liaison Mayor Stromberg
 
CALL TO ORDER
Chair Gardiner called the meeting to order at 9:00 a.m. at The Grove, 1195 E. Main Street.
 
PUBLIC INPUT
There was none.   
 
REVIEW STRATEGIC PLANNING AGENDA

  • Past Goals and Accomplishments

  • Mission, Vision and Values

  • Presentation from Partner Agencies

  • Level of Service Presentation

  • Goal Setting

Black reported that he was hopeful that the list of goals would be reduced from the prior biennium. There were approximately seven ongoing goals that should be carried forward, and of the top five goals, three had been started, one was almost complete and one was canceled.
 
Of the 42 goals from the current biennium, approximately 60% had been completed or were substantially underway, 24% were in process, 9% were postponed and 7% were canceled. Black gave an example of an ongoing goal, such as “prepare a budget that is easily read.” Black stated that budgets were constantly revised and refined - a continuous process. He expressed the opinion that those types of goals had no measurable benchmarks. Black suggested that the ongoing goals be limited to high priority items. The Mission, Vision, and Values could cover goals that continually cycled.    
 
The transfer to The Grove had been completed and budget reporting was up-to-date. Approximately five goals were cancelled. During the past year, capital projects were prioritized twice. A statement was prepared detailing two years of capital projects, with columns detailing funding sources and actual costs. Black explained that the APRC Project Manager kept real-time running tallies on each project, a helpful tool when estimating a project or looking back to ascertain areas of difficulty.
 
The organizational structure of APRC was evaluated through the Performance Audit. An internal organizational chart was reorganized and new divisions established.
 
Rebranding of the organization was accomplished, and the dog policy at Oak Knoll Golf Course was implemented. New signage explaining the dog rules on the course was prepared and posted.
 
Black stated that many activities were not detailed in the goals. There were large time-consuming projects and issues such as the Performance Audit and the Calle Guanajuato project. There was an unexpected large project at Beach Creek. Black stated that when such things occurred, they had to be addressed, resulting in a reduced focus on goals. Special events such as the 4th of July celebration contributed to rebranding and was worth the effort, although not listed. The book about Lithia Park was originally a Parks Foundation project but became a Parks project as well because much of the history was under the APRC aegis. Black indicated that APRC held the intellectual rights for the book and royalties would assist with the development of the Lithia Park Master Plan. The establishment of the Bee City USA Subcommittee was a benchmark (although not a goal) because of the involvement of citizens. It consumed some time and required the creation of a small budget.
 
IN-PROGRESS
Black highlighted two years of work toward development of a year-round swimming pool. The project required many meetings and a myriad of different directions and presentations. Options with the School District, the college and the YMCA were explored. It became clear that if a year-round pool were to happen, it would do so under the APRC umbrella.
 
A Trail Master Plan Update was underway. A Committee was established and McFarland would soon lead the group in a goal setting session.
 
Black stated that a Seismic and Flood Evaluation had begun but it was quickly realized that a Master Plan would need to be developed.
 
The expansion of the Bear Creek Greenway, while not a top goal, was listed because of activities conducted by Jackson County and the Bear Creek Greenway Foundation. The potential for property acquisition had been considered with a future goal toward connecting the Ashland portion of the Greenway to Emigrant Lake.
 
The Lithia Park Master Plan was in the early stages. Goals were established and an RFP (Request for Proposal) completed.
 
The Open Space Plan Update was originally part of the Trail Master Plan but would need a Subcommittee of its own.   
 
ONGOING
The ongoing goals and the priorities as established by the Commissioners were discussed as follows:

  1. In partnership with stakeholder groups, acquire the land on open space plan with emphasis on Grizzly Peak view-scape.​

Black indicated that it was part of continuing process of looking for land to meet the definition outlined in the Open Space Plan. 

  1. Enhance visibility to community of volunteer opportunities such as the Adopt-a-Park Program and trail maintenance and construction. ​

Black noted that this was refreshed frequently with work groups and individuals volunteering their time.   

  1. Continue APRC social networking strategies and invest in additional training for Promotions employee to advance APRC’s ability to effectively communicate through social media. ​

Black highlighted the reputation APRC had regarding an updated social presence. He stated that staff dedicated time daily to keep all social networks updated.  

  1. Explore cooperation between community partners such as Ashland School District and APRC to share services and facilities. ​

Black stated that he was excited about the progress toward a partnership with the School District. The District was now willing to share space in their schools – something that had not been available previously. Dials reported that an agreement had been made to provide kitchen space for adaptive cooking classes this summer. Black noted that in return, APRC had committed to mowing middle school ball fields. Black indicated that the next step would be gym space for recreational programming.

  1. Seek local and national recognition for the high-level achievement within the programs and facilities of APRC such as the NRPA Gold Medal Award

Black commented that this might become a worthy goal, but it was not doable currently because of excessive staff involvement required. He stated that implementing the Performance Audit was another path to accreditation.

  1. Ensure that staff is provided with the opportunity for professional development for the succession of the employee and to ensure relevancy with parks and recreation best practices. ​

Black stated that this is an area of continuous improvement and staff was encouraged to attend conferences – budgets permitting - because of the benefits of cross-pollination. Training was also offered internally.

  1. Ensure all approved capital projects are sufficiently planned and implemented on their own individual timelines. ​

Black noted that the Project Manager was committed to keeping this goal at the top of the list.

  1. Work toward achieving a higher cost recovery percentage.​

Black pointed out that not all programs utilize the cost recovery model. He said Commissioners decided the percentages based on what they felt their community valued. Black explained the concept with an example: There are many different ways to charge customers for swimming lessons. In one community, there might be a community concern over the number of drownings; therefore, swim lessons might be offered for free. In another, other priorities make it important to recover maintenance costs. The Senior Center is another value-based service. Because of the importance of outreach to underserved populations, cost recovery percentages might be low. On the other hand, cost recovery for the Calle is high because the businesses leasing the space make a profit from doing so.
      
Landt stated that the national norms might be taken into consideration so programs can be evaluated against the norms. He indicated that the cost recovery model was one way to measure programs. Lewis noted that other sources of funds (such as grants) could change the resulting percentages.
 
Black highlighted the intensive efforts to track all elements toward determining actual costs of a program. These include staff time involved per task. Landt stated that he would expect that cost recovery would be down this year. In response to a question by Heller, Landt indicated that the model used by APRC applies when money changes hands.     

  1. Continue to educate public and Council regarding the wide scope of park responsibilities and benefits.

Black mentioned the monthly articles in the Daily Tidings [written by Parks Commissioners and the APRC Director], an effort spearheaded by Chair Gardiner. 
 
Other goals are as listed:

  1. Ensure walking-distance park access for Ashland residents (.25 mile) while balancing the retention of natural green spaces.

  2. Work in conjunction with Community Development during an application process to ensure compliance with APRC planning and goals.

  3. Change language and culture in APRC communications so that directions and design flow to what is allowable, i.e. to maximize the yes and minimize the no. ​

Black noted that getting to yes was especially relevant in signage. As opportunities occur, wording is evaluated and changes are implemented when appropriate. Skate Park and the BMX Park are the only exceptions.

  1. Ensure that all developed park spaces are accessible to the public and do not end up underutilized.

  2. Continue to enhance and expand events.​

Black noted that this year there was an event added for APRC employees during the 4th of July festivities.

  1. Add new recreation programs as needs are demonstrated by public support and best practices.​

Black mentioned the adaptive cooking classes as one example.

  1. Evaluate all parks for dog friendly options.​

He noted that this happens with every Master Plan.

  1. Seek opportunities to increase revenues across recreation programs. ​

POSTPONED
Black indicated that many of the postponed goals were set aside because money was re-allocated to take care of the unexpected, such as the Beach Street bridge.  

  1. Move forward with sidewalks on Winburn Way and Clay Street Dog Park.​

Funding was used elsewhere.

  1. Implement a performance-based non-cumulative bonus program for employees.

  2. Install playground at OKGC.

  3. Consider the addition of a “pump track” and bicycle skills park to an APRC facility.​

NOT STARTED

  • Complete the Style and Communication Guide per the adopted MOU.

  • Develop parks development standards and guidelines.​

Black recommended that all of the in-progress items move forward. He asked that the final list of goals be more limited than in the past. He commented that large projects take time and the planning process is long. He stated that there are unknown projects that will come up and be prioritized into the list.
 
Black explained that the final list of goals is given to APRC managers who then develop work plans to accomplish the goals.  
 
Landt suggested eliminating redundant goals and concentrating on the top five rather than moving all the in-progress goals ahead. Black stated that some of those could be included in the Mission or Vision without being labeled a specific goal. He stated that a few of the in-progress goals are close to fruition and staff would like to complete them so the time spent to date is not wasted. Black noted that old goals could not be deleted but that it was possible to decide not to move them forward.  
 
PRESENTATIONS FROM PARTNER AGENCIES
Black introduced partner agencies, noting that their goals align with Parks and Rec’s objectives.   
He stated that the Swimming Group represents many groups such as the master swimmers, school-age swimmers and others. 
 
Black introduced Todd Lantry of the Rogue Valley Master Swimmers. Lantry stated that he was also representing the Ashland High School Swim Team and the aquatics community as a whole. He explained that there formerly had been three pools within the City of Ashland. Each pool represented a specific user group. The YMCA pool provides a member’s only pool, with SOU serving college students and competitive athletes. The Daniel Meyer Pool was used by all groups, but was seasonal in availability.
 
In 2015, SOU decommissioned their pool and the regular users were unable to find a year-round facility for serious swimmers and competitors. 
 
The needs of community aquatics are best served if they include facilities where access to a pool or pools serves four tiers of swimmers. First are those who are learning to swim, the second is for members of the community to work on fitness, the third is a competitive pool and the fourth is a pool where rehabilitation can take place.
 
Lantry stated that the swimmers he represents are in agreement that the Daniel Meyer Pool could be retrofitted to serve all four types of users. The most critical need is to reach those who must learn to swim.
Children and non-swimmers of all ages should be taught water safety and swimming skills. Lantry noted that Oregon is a beautiful state with many lakes, rivers and streams. It should come as no surprise, then, that the fifth largest cause of accidental death in Oregon is death by drowning. Learn to swim programs teach the skills that address this issue.
 
Community fitness encompasses a wide range of swimming activities. Partnership with other organizations involved in water sports and other water uses are an added benefit. Lantry stated that groups like kayakers can learn skills specific to their sport poolside. These user group are revenue generators.    
           
Because of the lack of a deep, year-round facility, competitive swimmers in the Valley are at a disadvantage. Users in need of rehabilitation are also underserved due to the lack of a proper facility. Lantry commented that the YMCA previously provided those services in partnership with Asante but had since ended the program.
 
He stated that in order to become a multi-use facility, the Daniel Meyer Pool would need to expand to eight lanes, with a shallow area on the side for early learners. He emphasized the value of a year-round pool, noting that a temporary roof could enclose the pool, allowing swimming in all weathers.  
 
Lantry disclosed that industry averages for cost recovery of a year-round facility that is competition and recreation based is at approximately 132%. Landt stated that the current ratio for the Daniel Mayer Pool was approximately 20% to 30%; he questioned the difference. Another member of the Master Swimmers stated that the industry average included water parks along with the pool.
 
There followed a brief discussion about more effective measurements. Regional use could add greatly to the cost effectiveness of a facility and a multi-use pool where many uses run concurrently and become more efficient. Miller noted that large play areas add to cost recovery, and with the Daniel Meyer Pool, constraints would make that difficult to achieve. He estimated that a 50% cost recovery rate might be more reasonable.
 
Discussion
Black stated that a pool professional would be sought to see what the possibilities for retrofitting might be. In response to a question by Heller, Black noted that an unofficial estimate for removal of the old pool, installation of a new pool with new equipment and the addition of a temporary roof would be approximately $3 million, according to his research. He stressed that a more thorough analysis would be necessary prior to a decision to move forward.     
 
Heller expressed reservations about expectations that one pool could serve so many functions. He gave the example of the need for a warmer pool for rehabilitation as opposed to a cooler pool for competitions.
 
Lewis stated that the community would value a multi-use facility. He asked staff whether there would be enough capacity to expand the uses. Black noted that expanding from seasonal to year-round would add capacity. Lewis noted that the current pool was built in the 1980s and its lifespan might be limited. 
 
Landt talked about a temporary top versus a permanent top. He questioned the longevity for a temporary cover. Black noted that there are many options that could be researched.
 
Lantry noted that the capital costs could be bonded and that the Masters Club would campaign for passage. He stated that the initial design process would be pro-bono offered by Jac Nickels of Architecture Design Works. 
 
Black highlighted discussion with the Ashland School District that indicated that the school would be supportive of an APRC general obligation bond. The District’s own bond would be coming due in 2018, making funding for a sports facility such as a pool problematic. Black noted that a general obligation bond would not take away from CIP operations. He stated that there were ways to mitigate the operating costs for a pool such as leasing the facility to groups like the School District. Leasers could be assessed payments to absorb maintenance costs.
      
Further discussion focused on ways to mitigate operating expenses. Black stated that the cost to the public for a general obligation bond could be very low. Landt asked about geographical limitations for general obligation bonds, noting that others such as the Phoenix/Talent area were also in need of a pool. Black replied that the bond would most likely have to be limited in scope to the City of Ashland.      
 
SOUTHERN OREGON LAND CONSERVANCY
Diane Garcia, Executive Director, and Pat Acklin, Board President, were introduced. Garcia explained that the Conservancy was a regional land conservation organization established forty years prior. From that auspicious beginning, the Conservancy was currently managing approximately 10,000 acres. 
 
Garcia stated that the Conservancy had been working on conservation for the Imperatrice Property since 2009. She called attention to a conservation easement nearby between the Oredson-Todd Woods and Siskiyou Mountain Park. Hikes and educational programs were offered in the area, including a program called Loving the Land for Ashland school children.
 
Discussion focused on a map of the Imperatrice Property and the connectivity with surrounding areas. The foothills were an area of particular interest for the Conservancy. Garcia stated that there were sections of white oak woodlands – habitat that is diminishing due to development. She commented that only 10% of the woodlands remain in Southern Oregon. There are endangered plants and flowers in the area as well. Acklin stated that one flower in particular was thought to have been extinct but a newly discovered patch was discovered on the land.  
 
Acklin stated that the grassland portion of the property had never been plowed so the original grasses were intact. Grasslands store carbon.
 
In response to a question by Landt, Acklin stated that if the property became conservation land, a conservation easement could be written to include different uses. The original proposal suggested that the EFU characteristics remain below the irrigation ditch so that the land could be used for farmland. The proposal detailed increased restrictions as the land rose in elevation. Garcia stated that the primary goal would be to preserve the land intact, emphasizing that the site was an important Ashland view-shed.  
 
Acklin noted that those with a competing interest in the property would like to utilize the land for placement of a solar array. She stated that the easement could be written to allow that, but the Conservancy’s preference would be to prohibit the use. Garcia suggested alternative sites for the solar array, noting that there were other lands that were not as untouched as the Imperatrice Property. 
 
There followed a brief pictorial of birds found on the property, including 36 singing male grasshopper sparrows. Garcia noted that it was the largest population of grasshopper sparrows in Oregon.
 
Garcia stated that the Conservancy would like to work with APRC and the City of Ashland to preserve the property in perpetuity. She stated that the organization would assist with raising the funds.
 
Discussion
Landt questioned whether the City of Ashland had heard the presentation. Black reported that Stewardship Director Kristi Mergenthaler had indicated that the strategy was to obtain the support of APRC and then approach the City. He stated that in order to obtain the property, APRC would need to purchase it from the City at an estimated $1 million.
 
Further discussion focused on the possibility of other uses for the property and a partnership with the City of Ashland for purchase of the property. Acklin noted that there had been some support by the City in the past but that the efforts had stalled. She added that in her opinion, the citizens of Ashland would get behind preserving this significant piece of Ashland’s view-shed.   
 
Lewis discussed past history that included the Imperatrice Property, stating that his dream would be to preserve the land as a conservation easement as well as a pedestrian easement. It was agreed that the best plan would be to have APRC own the property, with Southern Oregon Land Conservancy in second position.
 
Lewis asked about the possibility of selling a portion of the property such as the piece below the irrigation ditch to provide funds to purchase the remaining property. Garcia acknowledged the possibility but referenced the constraints of the EFU designation and the legalities of creating a separate parcel as areas of difficulty. Acklin commented that the Conservancy was open to negotiations.      
 
Landt questioned alternative avenues for financing. Garcia replied that it was their belief that the people of Ashland would help with the purchase. She noted that the Conservancy would fundraise, indicating that access to conservancy grant sources could be part of the mix as well. Black indicated that if the City was willing to sell to APRC then they would ask for the amount originally spent in acquiring the property.
 
Garcia noted that finding the priority for each piece of land was paramount. She relayed that not every property should be conserved, nor should every piece of land be developed. The challenge was to determine the best and highest use.
     
MISSION, VISION, VALUE
Dials introduced the topic, noting that APRC had developed a Mission Statement but had not yet articulated an overall Vision Statement or defined the organization’s Core Values. She emphasized that the combination of mission, vision and values created a culture of understanding that communicated a purpose.
 
APRC’s current mission statement was to Provide and Promote Recreational Opportunities and to Preserve and Maintain Public Lands.
 
Dials called for feedback on the relevancy of the current Mission Statement. Landt noted that the statement “to preserve and maintain” was not specific. He stated that the mission should be to preserve and protect our natural world. Landt referred to the strong environmental values in Ashland that could be reflected with more explicit language. Lewis noted that the word “sustain” would also resonate.
 
Dials noted that establishing a vision and a statement of core values would strengthen accomplishments in the next biennium. She shared examples of vision statements, noting that those types of statements create a mental picture that guides and inspires the community as well as the organization.
 
It was agreed that the vision statement by Bend Parks and Recreation most closely aligned with the values espoused by the Commissioners, i.e. “to be a leader in building a community connected to nature, active life styles, and one another”.
 
Dials talked about the core values as a reminder of the principles behind the work. There followed a brief conversation about the direction of APRC and how to best describe it. Lewis pointed out that Austin Parks and Recreation, core values were well stated. They covered lifelong recreational opportunities, inclusion principles, health and wellness, sustainability, accountability, collaboration and service to the customer.    
 
Landt suggested that a Subcommittee be assigned to develop prototypes. Black noted the value of selecting a staff member or two who do not ordinarily engage with the Commissioners.       
 
Gardiner stated that the Subcommittee would be named the Mission, Vision, and Core Values Subcommittee. Landt recommended that a member of the public join as well. Black stated that introducing the subject and soliciting feedback on Facebook would be interesting. Gardiner appointed Commissioners Landt and Miller to the Subcommittee. Dials was asked to propose staff members who would like to participate.
 
LEVEL OF SERVICE PARKS                                              
Black noted that presentations by McFarland and Dials would focus on day-to-day operational activities of APRC staff.
 
McFarland stated that there were numerous functions within Parks – some assigned individually and some that were shared responsibilities. He stated that the APRC mission was to preserve and maintain Ashland’s parks, public lands, facilities, trails and open space. The goal was to do so safely, with a high level of quality and good stewardship. Parks is divided into divisions that include Eastern and Western Divisions, the Facilities Division, an Irrigation Division and the Golf Course Division.         
 
Western Division
The Western Division is responsible for a maintenance crew devoted to irrigation, a maintenance crew that takes care of the downtown boulevards and medians, maintenance crews dedicated to Lithia Park, Scenic Park, Ashland Creek Park, Railroad Park, Dog Park and the Skate Park. The work includes mowing and edging of the lawns, weed abatement, fertilization and seeding, debris removal and administration of a new safety program that is separate from playground safety. He noted that staff was trained to integrate safety checks into regular maintenance checks. Irrigation issues, new irrigation installation and repairs completed by the Western Division are for all areas under APRC purview, including the Golf Course. The Division also encompasses community service work completed by volunteers, and maintains the Ashland Creek Riparian Zone. Functions include daily interactions with park patrons and the homeless. Special events include a shared responsibility for the set-up and take-down of the Ice Rink. Other events such as the bandshell concerts, the 4th of July parade as well as any activity utilizing heavy equipment are provided or facilitated by the Division. Rehabilitation of the east hillside above Lithia Park is a shared responsibility as is erosion control, removal of blackberries in wilderness areas and the replanting of native trees and plants in areas that attract illegal camping. The Western and Eastern Divisions work together on hazard tree identification and the draining of the duck ponds.    
 
Facilities Division
Jason Minica is Projects and Facilities Manager as well as the manager for capital improvement projects. He supervises staff responsible for cleaning facilities, processing waste and litter, water operations, water maintenance and safety, mechanical operations and more. Maintenance staff are available evenings and weekends.  
 
Eastern Division 
This Division houses forestry, trails, natural resources and Outer Parks. They manage all natural resources, trails and open space. Forestry includes management of over 500 acres of open space, weed abatement on 60 acres of City property, tree removal for the entire APRC system, Ashland Pond, the Nature Center and parts of the Greenway. Forty-six miles of trails and management of the interface areas, the Ashland Central Bike Path and the central section of Creek-to-Crest Trail. There are fifty-two stations for garbage and waste along the way.
 
The Division provides heavy equipment operations and participates in construction projects such as the cart paths at the Golf Course. Concrete work, footings, shop slabs and other work is provided as needed.
 
Outer Parks Division
The Outer Parks Division consists of a four-person crew that oversees twelve developed parks located in the eastern part of the City – approximately twelve acres of fields, the Senior Center, the Daniel Meyer Pool, the Splash Pad at Garfield Park, the tennis courts, two community gardens and six sets of restrooms. Specialists include a certified arborist, a certified playground safety inspector and a certified pool and spa operator.
 
Golf Course Division
The Golf Course is a 74-acre 9-hole course owned by the City of Ashland, two fairways, a driving range, a clubhouse, two parking lots and ponds.
 
McFarland noted that there is work that is planned, work that is unplanned, grant work and emergency projects. He stated that due to staffing levels, collaboration was occurring with other groups more frequently. He described the workings of these cross-functional teams, stating that the crews were exceptional in their abilities to work with others.
 
Heller asked about specific challenges that had become apparent over the last two years. McFarland noted that the homeless created more maintenance issues, particularly with regard to the restrooms. He stated the challenge was to develop ways to protect the facilities from damage. He stated that the amount of manual weeding needed due to the no-chemical weed abatement program was also challenging because of limited staffing and the need for volunteer resources.            
 
Landt noted that plantings can be managed to minimize weeding. He stated that low growing plants are more labor-intensive than taller evergreen plants. Landt suggested that transitioning to those types of plants would be more cost effective and less challenging down the road. McFarland agreed, noting that incorporating that direction into the Lithia Master Plan would be helpful. He touted innovative discoveries such as new sprinkler heads that provide more targeted water use for plantings with the result that less water is used at a significant savings. McFarland stated that he was hopeful that APRC would continue to transition away from the water-intensive plantings of the past toward plantings that are more environmentally sustainable.
 
Landt asked about design guidelines for landscaping as a means to transition plantings. Black replied that a specific goal to address the issue would be helpful once the standards were identified.    
McFarland also identified a growing issue with dogs off leash. Although the rules prohibiting dogs off leash were in place, they were not always strongly enforced.
 
Commissioner Discussion
There followed discussion about ways to ensure compliance. Black suggested that seasonal Park Patrol be given leave to enforce the rules more aggressively. Park Patrol hours could be increased. He stated that while the enforcement effort did not have to be listed as a goal, there would be an impact on the budget.
 
Lewis noted that the police were not keen on aggressive enforcement. Black noted that APRC pays a portion of the Central Area Patrol officer’s salary in return for a police presence primarily in Lithia Park. In addition, seasonal APRC staff could be directed to remind people about the rules. Black proposed the distribution of “pass-along cards” to remind people of their responsibilities for keeping dogs on leash.
 
Miller stated that it would be easier to support extra police coverage if the police contacts were tracked and results justified the extra expenditure. Landt highlighted educational opportunities to explain the rationale behind the no-dogs-off-leash laws.
 
Gardiner suggested an article in the Tidings to raise awareness of the issue. He advocated for the pass-along cards, commenting that the focus would be to inform rather than enforce.    
 
Lewis likened the issue to a similar situation at the Lithia Park duck ponds, stating that the educational interpretive signage had a significant impact on outcomes.   
 
LEVEL OF SERVICE RECREATION
Dials stated that the Recreation Division was staffed with nine full-time employees and additional seasonal staff. Dials oversees the Nature Center whose year-around programs focus on sustainability and gardening. Educational programs are offered at the Nature Center for children attending Kindergarten through 5th grade. In 2015, 1,600 students participated in Nature Center education programs.

Environmental programs are offered to children in 6th through 8th grades. Programs offered at the Briscoe Geology Park serve approximately 500 children as well. The Nature Center oversees four community gardens throughout Ashland and offers outdoor stewardship programs at North Mountain Park that are available to all ages. The Nature Center supports two special events, the Bear Creek Salmon Festival and Migratory Bird Day. They also provide a staff liaison to the Bee City USA Subcommittee. Self-guided interpretive trails are available throughout North Mountain Park along with an indoor Discovery Room in the Nature Center.   
 
Recreation programming is provided through the Recreation Division – for adults, youth and adaptive programs for disabled persons. Partnerships with a myriad of other organizations enrich program offerings and provide substantial outreach. A bike safety program is offered at three elementary schools serving approximately 400 - 600 children per year. An annual community bike swap supports that enterprise and is sponsored by APRC.
 
The Ice Rink and the Daniel Meyer Pool offer seasonal full schedules featuring family-oriented programming. Staff are hired and trained for those specific areas. Ice skating and swim programs are offered for school-aged children and other age groups.
 
Dials explained that APRC facility and field reservations are administered by Recreation staff in three variations: electronically, over the phone or by walk-in reservations.
 
General hiking, biking and walking questions are answered by Recreation staff. The Calle Guanajuato is a part of Recreation services, managed by staff and monitored weekly for compliance of lease agreements.
 
Special annual events sponsored by APRC and staffed by Recreation personnel include the Bike Swap, 4th of July Run and the Siskiyou de Mayo event.
 
Lori Ainsworth serves as the APRC Volunteer Coordinator. Her duties include background checks and screening along with general training for volunteers. Based upon her assessment, volunteers are placed into various positions. Ainsworth oversees conservation programs for high schoolers that result in school credits for community service as well as forty to fifty work parties per year for the Adopt-a-Park Program. Practicum students or interns from SOU are matched with appropriate work. Recognition programs are administered by Ainsworth including a new program to award individual volunteerism.  
 
Clubhouse operations include programming events and tournaments, help with cash handling and providing access to the neighborhoods surrounding the Golf Course for walking activities.
 
Recreation managers ensure positive morale through weekly and biweekly meetings with recreation staff and managers. Monthly safety meetings are conducted to ensure safe and well maintained facilities. Quarterly safety training is conducted for all APRC staff. There is a monthly Fun Committee to bring staff together as well as an internal newsletter. The Recreation Division provides financial oversight and monitors all recreation-based financial transactions. Dials reported that staff has a reputation for excellent customer service, acting as advocates for citizens who sign up for recreational activities or who request special services. The Division also serves as a clearinghouse for all Parks and Rec. activities in Ashland.
 
Recreation Division personnel act as role models for youth hired in its programs, ensuring a positive experience. The thorough trainings they receive prepare them for future success. Because training is also a priority for Recreation Division staff, employees learn skills that assist them in future job opportunities.
 
The Recreation Division provides maps of the trails in Ashland, vetting them for user-friendly directions. Marketing is extensive and includes a Recreation Program Guide that goes to all residents of Ashland annually. Communications regarding APRC programs are provided to the Commissioners as well.
 
Black explained that the overview provided by Parks and Rec gives the Commission an idea of day-to-day activities and the high bar set for APRC services. Day-to-day operations are visible to APRC customers and staff are judged by what they do whether it is a well-mowed field or a recreational program.
 
LEVEL OF SERVICE ADMINISTRATION
Black reported that reorganization of the Administrative arm of APRC resulted in changes as follows:

  • Jason Minica is the manager for all capital improvements. He generates spreadsheets tracking projects, oversees project budgets and ensures that capital projects are on-time and meet all administrative requirements.

  • Senior Center Manager Chris Dodson oversees the delivery of services for seniors such as Food & Friends. Many services are provided at the Center for the underserved aging population in Ashland. Seniors can take advantage of educational opportunities, tax services and more.

  • Susan Dyssegard focuses on administrative tasks, serving as the Commissioners’ executive assistant, staff assistant to the Parks Foundation and assistant to the APRC Director.

  • Betsy Harshman helps with budget oversight, crunching numbers to ascertain that the organization will end the year within budget.

  • Promotions is now housed under Administration. Dorinda Cottle provides marketing and all other branding communications for APRC. 

Gardiner asked about the monthly safety meetings. Dials explained that there is a requirement to have a Safety Committee that schedules monthly meetings and documents safety concerns and injuries toward achieving requirements set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Quarterly staff meetings are also conducted and attendance is mandatory.
 
PAST GOALS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS PRESENTATION
Black introduced APRC goals and accomplishments. He tasked the Commissioners with reducing the number of goals, combining goals that are ongoing and identifying goals that are time consuming. He asked that the Commissioners think about how best to vote on their goals.  
  
Landt stated that he wanted to establish a list of priority goals for the next biennium. This list would include the top five goals with one or two more that are a higher priority than most. A second list would establish goals that are less important. Those goals could be worked on when there is time to do so with assurance that the work would not take time away from higher priority goals. A third set of goals (not time sensitive) functioning as place holders for the next biennium would also be desirable.
 
Landt noted that staff had not been directed during the 2015-2017 biennium to focus on top goals. Midway through the biennium the Commissioners realized that prioritization needed to take place as the number of goals made it difficult to sort out the most important goals. Halfway through the biennium, a new prioritization list was developed. Black noted that weighting the goals highlighted the order of importance in an organic way.
 
Lewis commented that beginning the biennium with prioritized goals, in his opinion, would be helpful. Then a midway evaluation would provide a clear idea of the progress to date on the most essential goals.
 
Black identified several ongoing goals that were not listed on the goal sheets. They were as follows:

  • Develop a volunteer recognition program. 

  • Evaluate and expand an alternative use of the Senior Center to meet community needs.

  • Evaluate a cost recovery plan and policy.

  • Expand the Bear Creek Greenway

Black asked that the four be added to the comprehensive list of goals for discussion and prioritization.
Black began with those goals that should be moved forward. They were:

  • Update and approve Trail Master Plan.

  • Extend Bear Creek Greenway to Emigrant Lake.

Skate Park:

  • Move the Skateboard Park to be more visible and highly used park area.

  •  Master plan for the Skate Park.  

Black noted that the two goals were similar enough to combine. He stated that implementation would depend upon the budget.
 
Landt stated that he envisioned those goals as part of a more sweeping overhaul of the Dog Park, Skate Park and Shop areas. He noted that the planning process could begin prior to assignment to the CIP. He anticipated those evaluations as part of a long-term strategy to determine future needs.
 
Recreation 

  • Plan Recreation for the next 5 - 10 years by putting together a Comprehensive Plan and conduction a needs assessment.                                             PERFORMANCE AUDIT

 
Black suggested those bullet points such as the one listed above that are covered in the Performance Audit should be incorporated into one goal that states that the recommendations of the Performance Audit would be incorporated as appropriate.      

  • Continue to expand the adaptive recreation programs for the Ashland Community.

ONGOING

  • Research new registration software to find the best choice that is cost effective and compatible with the City of Ashland’s MUNIS Financial System.​

Black stated that the new software was important because of compatibility issues. Dials noted that it did not yet have to be a budget item. The goal would be to research and identify the appropriate software.
                                                                                                            NON-PERFORMANCE AUDIT
 
Heller questioned the separation between APRC and the City. Black replied that as long as the City was administering the financial data there would be a need for compatibility.

  • Implement across all programs a standard program evaluation process that includes tracking

                                                                                                            PERFORMANCE AUDIT

  • Expand education programs by creating and staffing programs 3rd through high school groups in Lithia Park.                                                                                     NEW​

Dials reported that the reason for this goal was because the Nature Center was at capacity and ten to twelve classes per season were turned away. Curriculum needs to be developed for the new location in Lithia Park. She stated that the classes could be revenue producing. Black agreed, noting that the cost recovery impact could be evaluated.

  • Organize programming department-wide so that one FTE position was responsible for all offerings with the authority to collaborate across facilities.​

Dials stated that this wish-list goal would involve one full-time coordinator who could organize and standardize all recreation curriculum, training, contracts, instructor manuals and so on.  Black suggested changing the goal to read “Evaluate department-wide programming, curriculum, training material and operations manuals for cost-effectiveness.”
 
Court Sports    
Black explained that the first goal listed under court sports was generated because bike polo was an up-and-coming sport that would stand the test of time. Sport proponents had generated interest in a multipurpose court specifically for their game.

  1. Plan and build a multi-purpose court that includes lights and space for a full-sized bike polo and basketball court in Hunter Park or at a suitable facility. 

  2. Work to create at least six dedicated pickleball courts with room for future expansion.

  3. Discuss phase two of the Ashland Creek Park plan, mainly the half-court basketball court development.

  4. Work with SOU to see if collaboration is possible toward to resurfacing their tennis courts and the creation of a dedicated pickleball.

Black suggested changing the first goal to read – “Plan a multipurpose covered court that includes lights and space for a full-sized bike polo and basketball court in a suitable park.” He stated that if the Commissioners directed staff to build new courts then the budget would be adjusted accordingly.
 
Lewis advocated for planning these desirable elements but noted that each of the goals impacted the budget significantly.  
 
Heller stated that the Lithia Park courts were fully utilized and people were often waiting to play. Pickleball courts were set up differently than regular tennis courts. He commented that pickleball was the fastest growing sport nationwide. He estimated that there were approximately one hundred pickleball players in Ashland. He advocated for permanent pickleball courts, noting that the sport appeals to older generations, an underserved population. He stated that people were willing to pay for the experience and that a concrete pad the size of two tennis courts would house six to eight low-maintenance pickleball courts.
 
It was agreed that the two goals related to pickleball would be combined. There followed a brief discussion about planning for the courts and whether there was a timeframe for building. Gardiner stated that if the goal became one of the top five, then it would become a project with a two-year timeline and budget.
 
Black added that the goal could state “begin planning process for six dedicated pickleball courts.”    
He stated that the Chitwood property might be found appropriate, but the planning process would be a comprehensive look at all properties for the project.     
 
Ice Rink   

  • Develop an outdoor matting system and operations trailer set up for the Ice Rink that is cleaner and more efficient for operations.

Black explained that it was considered a goal because the cost of the equipment placed the project into the CIP.  Black stated that the Rotary Club was considering purchasing the trailer for APRC. It was expected that APRC would purchase the new matting system.
 
Daniel Meyer Pool

  • Find a long-term solution to the pool issue in Southern Oregon.

  • Rebuild Daniel Meyer Pool into a year-round facility for all Ashland users.

  • Rebuild Daniel Meyer Pool into a year-round competition-ready pool.

  • Pursue funding to plan and rebuild DMP into a year-round eight-lane competitive aquatics facility. 

  • Review long-term maintenance costs for a temporary cover vs. an indoor pool.

Black stated that pursuing the funding would come in advance of a rebuild. There followed a brief discussion about the value of having a pool that could be converted into a winter facility while open to the elements in the summer. Miller stated that it would be worth looking at. Landt commented that language should be added to ensure that the recreational component was not lost.  
 
Black suggested that the four goals be combined and the process defined as pursue funding first, then plan and rebuild. He stated that in the past two years, a community solution had been explored but at this point seemed unattainable.  
 
Golf Course

  • Continue to enhance the OKGC by upgrading the interior of the Golf Course Clubhouse.

 PERFORMANCE AUDIT

  • Pave Oak Knoll Golf Course cart path.

PERFORMANCE AUDIT

  • Install a paved cart path around the Golf Course

    ON-GOING

  • See that a neighborhood park is installed at Oak Knoll Golf Course.

CARRIED-OVER

  • Budget for and implement a Master Plan for OKGC

    PERFORMANCE AUDIT

  • Install an updated irrigation system at OKGC

PERFORMANCE AUDIT
 
Black noted that the goal for a neighborhood park at the Golf Course was an unfulfilled goal from the prior biennium. The park was proposed because of the need for a neighborhood park within a distance of ¼ mile as outlined in the Open Space Plan. He stated that completing that goal would require listing in the CIP.
 
Landt asked about private sector investment and whether the Golf Course would remain under APRC purview. Gardiner stated that it would remain an APRC facility until such time as a proposal to purchase was on the table.     
 
Dials stated that the maintenance issues needed to be addressed. Black replied that a Master Plan would include infrastructure repairs and other improvements.
 
Dog Park

  • Build a second dog park on APRC property somewhere toward the south end of Ashland. The current proposed location might be inappropriate.

  • Begin construction on a second dog park on the south end of town.

  • Master plan for dog parks.​

Gardiner expressed a concern about the YMCA Park, stating that it might not be the right property for a dog park. Landt agreed, stating that there was actually a need for three dog parks given the high usage rates. He suggested one more centrally located as well as one located on the south end of town.
 
Black stated that there was approximately $250,000 set aside to build a dog park. In addition, recompense might be forthcoming from the YMCA. He stated that the resources could be moved around. It was agreed that the first two goals would be combined and changed to state “Plan and build a second dog park…”
 
Lithia Park Master Plan        

  1. Complete the Lithia Park Master Plan process in the next biennium.

  2. Master plan for park shop/yard areas, dog parks and skateboard park. 

  3. Make a plan for use of the APRC admin building and annex for future revenue generation and/or interpretation for the nature and culture of our region.

  4. Continued presence of APRC staff in the Park Admin/Annex buildings to meet the needs of park patrons

Black stated that he disagreed with the premise that APRC staff was needed in that area for patrons. He noted that there were so few patrons that keeping a staff member there was not appropriate. He said that the annex was well stocked with informational materials and maps. Customer service offered at The Grove was, in his opinion, sufficient.   

  1. Install aesthetic and deer fencing around rose garden.   

It was agreed that goals one through three and five would be rolled into the Lithia Park Master Plan. Goal number four was eliminated.

Senior Center
Black stated that all the goals listed for the Senior Center had been identified and condensed under four goals managed by the Senior Center Subcommittee. He suggested that the eight bullet points be combined and the overarching intent be stated as follows:

Continue the process of the Subcommittee in meeting the goals established by the Subcommittee.
                                                                                                                           PERFORMANCE AUDIT
General Parks/Park Facilities

  • Build a Nature Play area at North Mountain Park.

Black explained that in that Parks and Rec magazine there was an article that featured an all-natural play area, constructed of materials found in nature – such as boulders, and logs. Nature Center Manager Libby VanWyhe proposed the project. Black noted that she intended to apply for a grant but to qualify for one, the project had to be listed in the CIP.  APRC would need to budget a match of about $20,000 for the project as well.

Miscellaneous
Black stated that increased vandalism to Parks restrooms created a sense of urgency to find a way to minimize damages. Landt added that APRC also needed to plan for aging infrastructure, beginning with an evaluation of APRC facilities. Black noted that in his opinion, infrastructure improvements should be part of ongoing operations rather than a listed goal.
 
There followed a brief discussion about the difference between goals and operations. Lewis indicated that in his opinion, infrastructure belonged in operations as ongoing maintenance, not listed as a top goal. Miller agreed, stating that the Director should not have to ask for funds to get things fixed. Black replied that it was subjective and a set of standards would be helpful in identifying whether a playground was dangerous, for example. Lewis commented that older facilities reached a point where it was no longer practical to attempt repairs.
 
Black stated that he would build a component into the CIP that justified taking action on maintenance issues.
 
Other topics that wrapped up discussion included repairing streams that flood during high water events. Landt advocated for a new pedestrian bridge at Beach Creek and restoration of the grade so that it minimized the damage caused by flooding.
 
Administrative issues such as the proposed COLA adjustment were reviewed. It was agreed that a salary survey was needed and the best way forward was to adjust salaries rather than depend upon COLA to keep earnings competitive. Once salaries met the norms, cost-of-living adjustments should keep salaries competitive.   
 
Miller noted that there was still much work to be done on the policy governing the Calle Guanajuato. He stated that it remained too ambiguous.
 
Pioneer Hall was discussed because of concerns that cost recovery was low. Black highlighted the City’s use of the hall, stating that the facility was sometimes used for programs that did not generate revenues. Black indicated that the cost to run the facility was approximately $25,000 annually. Gardiner suggested negotiating with the City to either take back Pioneer Hall or ask the City to cover financial losses associated with administration of the property.
 
Dials noted that the Community Center was in dire need of an upgrade. She stated that the curtains alone would cost several thousand dollars to replace. Black indicated his preference to send the City a letter asking to renegotiate the restrictive deed.  
 
Landt reiterated that work done by the Real Estate Subcommittee was not reflected in the goals. This work should be assigned a priority.
 
Final Discussion
Black looked at the number of changes that were generated at goal setting, stating that in his opinion, it was premature to vote at this time. He volunteered to reflect the changes and develop new goals based on the information gathered during goal setting.
 
It was agreed that once completed, the Commissioners would follow the voting process from the prior year, voting for their priorities with dots. Black stated that they would be welcome to do so at his office the week before the regularly scheduled business meeting.
 
ADJOURNMENT 
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 3:35 p.m. 
 
Respectfully submitted, 
 
 
Betsy Manuel, Assistant
  
 
 
These Minutes are not a verbatim record. The narrative has been summarized to reflect the discussions made. Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission Study Sessions, Special Meetings and Regular Meetings are digitally recorded and available upon request

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