City of Ashland
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
Regular Meeting Minutes
May 23, 2016
There was none.
Present: Commissioners Gardiner, Landt, Lewis, Miller, Shaw; Director Black; Superintendents Dickens and Dials; Executive Assistant Dyssegard; Assistant Manuel
Also Present: Nature Center Manager VanWyhe
Absent: City Council Liaison Mayor Stromberg
CALL TO ORDER
Chair Gardiner called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. at Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street
ADJOURNMENT INTO EXECUTIVE SESSION
By consensus, Gardiner adjourned into executive session at 6:00 p.m.
Executive Session: Real Property Discussion and Disposition, ORS 192.660 (2)(e)
ADJOURNMENT OUT OF EXECUTIVE SESSION
By consensus, Gardiner adjourned out of executive session at 6:59 p.m.
The regular meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. at Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Study Session – April 18, 2016
Motion: Landt moved to approve the Minutes for April 18, 2016, as presented. Shaw seconded.
The vote was all yes.
Regular Meeting – April 25, 2016
Motion: Landt moved to approve the Minutes for April 25, 2016, as presented. Miller seconded.
The vote was all yes.
ADDITIONS AND DELETIONS
Gardiner announced a change in the agenda order, with the Nature Center Report as the first item of business under the heading of SUBCOMMITTEE AND STAFF REPORTS.
Dials introduced Libby VanWyhe, Manager of the North Mountain Nature Center. She said the Nature Center provides educational opportunities for schools, the community at large and service learning for groups. Classes are held on evenings and weekends in addition to daytime school activities.
In 2015, volunteers contributed over 3600 hours at the Nature Center. Regular staff include Linda Chesney, Stewardship Coordinator, Brigitte Cooke, Office Assistant, and VanWyhe. Dials complimented the three, highlighting the superlative programs, projects and services provided under the direction of VanWyhe.
VanWyhe said Nature Center activities connect people to the environment through place-based outdoor education. She stated that theory and practice come together when classroom standards are applied outside the classroom. In addition, interactions between volunteers of all ages and the children who participate promotes multi-generational connectedness.
VanWyhe quoted Richard Louv who wrote that “Reconnection to the natural world is fundamental to human health and survival.” Activities presented at the Nature Center offer play space for younger children combined with lessons in geology, water conservation and use, plants, animals, Native American history and pioneer history.
VanWyhe reported that classroom programs have been re-written to better integrate best practices with core curriculum environmental standards. The main objective is to encourage students to think like scientists. The curriculum is designed to explain what the student is actually going to create, think about, design and investigate. Thinking begins in the lower levels with repetition and memorization while the upper levels are immersed in environmental science and taught scientific analyses and valuation. Progress is measured by how well the student meets the objectives outlined in the lesson plan. Assessments are conducted both “on-the-ground” and through classroom follow-up. Students complete a post-assessment quiz that is returned to the Nature Center for evaluation. The rate of return for completed quizzes is approximately 80%
VanWyhe explained that the most effective teaching technique is child-centered. Each student is encouraged to discover nature through activities that challenge them. If the subject is determining the age of a tree, students are encouraged to estimate the age, then verifying their hypothesis by counting the rings to see how close they were to the actual age. VanWyhe shared other similar examples.
Younger students navigate the gardens by map. In one program, they gather data about differing soil requirements for specific organisms that they find along the way. They are asked to personify a plant that is new to them. They role-play the steps to build a bird’s nest. They study real bird nests and act out the stages of nest building. They collect insects in the fields and make observations using data sheets and field guides.
One goal is to reach out to community members with different backgrounds. For students unable to pay the field trip fee, scholarships are offered from grant monies that help defray costs. It is believed that once a child has learned how to appreciate the natural environment they will bring their families to enjoy Ashland’s parks.
VanWyhe reviewed the attendance numbers and the number of schools represented. She said in 2015 the Nature Center served 2375 students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade, representing eleven schools. The 2016 calendar is currently full and there is a waiting list for those interested in attending.
Landt applauded the tremendous growth in programs and attendance. He asked about corresponding expenses.
VanWyhe explained that the budget for temporary employees increased significantly because of a need for educators’ assistance with changing Nature Center programs to align with school curriculum standards. This resulted in an increase in temporary staffing of approximately $20,000. VanWyhe stated that it was expected that expenses would decrease once the suite of programs was brought up to standards. Program expenses for 2015 were approximately $4486. $1500 was funded through Ashland Parks Foundation scholarships and the school districts covered the balance. With the development of lesson plans, materials costs decreased as duplication was not needed.
Landt called for future disclosure of revenues and expenses, noting that the Commission appreciated those figures. Dials reported that the Nature Center budget was approximately $301,000 annually, including wages for part-time and full-time personnel. Black stated that a standard presentation for financial data was in the process of development and would first be presented for the Ashland Ice Rink.
Shaw asked about outreach in Siskiyou County. He explained that schools in Yreka often visit Ashland for Shakespeare and Science Works and that the Nature Center was a natural fit. VanWyhe replied that there were various avenues of exposure including an annual workshop for elementary and high school teachers. The workshop focuses on environmental science for the classroom. Dials reiterated that demand for the programs is at capacity and there is a waiting list for those wishing to attend.
There followed discussion about ways to continue to grow. Gardiner asked whether a lack of suitable volunteers was a contributing factor. VanWyhe noted that consideration had been given to expansion. She stated that a seven-week commitment from volunteers at the Nature Center was a determining factor. Teaching classes concurrently in Lithia Park was also considered, and in her opinion, there were many opportunities to continue to build programs in environmental science elsewhere.
Dials summarized the initial request and the resulting trial program. After feedback and review, APRC determined that the next step would be a one-year bike polo program. Tennis court #5 was the designated play area. As the Rogue Valley Bike Polo Club continued to grow, program organizers were strengthening their presence in Ashland by holding the proposed special event. This event, a tournament called the Jefferson Joust, included elements that needed authorization from the Commission. Dials reviewed the steps taken by staff to provide a venue and any marketing such as banners. Commission authorization was sought to approve or deny a request for amplification and to add food truck sales and merchandising on-site.
- Bike Polo Special Event Request (Information and Possible Action)
Eric Michener and Thomas Bunter were called forward.
Bunter detailed the plans for a two-day bike polo event. There would be an 18 team cap, with each team consisting of three people for a total of 54 participants. The first day each game would result in elimination of the losing team. Second day competition would continue elimination rounds and finish with double elimination to establish tournament winners.
Site plans included dasher boards for the event, not unlike the ones used for street hockey. The four-foot dasher boards would be designed for safety to block existing lamp posts within the fencing. The boards would be free-standing, secured by two-by-fours bolted to the outside of the facility. Amplification was requested for announcements and would not be continuous. Trash and recycle containers on site would be supplemented. One food truck and a merchandising booth would be located in the adjacent parking lot. The Bike Polo organization would be asked to provide a $2M Special Event Insurance Rider and each participant would sign a release of liability.
Bunter requested authorization to set up on September 2, 2016, with the event held on the weekend of September 3 and 4, 2016. Tear-down and clean-up would occur on Monday, September 5. In reply to a question by Landt, tentative event starting and ending times were reported as 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
There followed questions by the Commissioners related to damage to the tennis court. Bunter noted that the main challenge was in regard to marks made on the court’s surface due to skidding. Eric noted that the Club had held a clean-up session during which they pressure washed the surface of the court to remove skid marks.
Landt asked about amplification and Michener assured the Commission that they would respect the mandates of the Noise or Nuisance Ordinance, with no amplification after 8:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. Miller clarified that the number of booths would be limited to two. He also clarified the number of teams. Michener replied that 16 teams were projected but a cap of 18 would provide some flexibility should the need arise.
In response to a question by Shaw about replacement of the tennis netting, club organizers were trained and had access to the proper tool for replacing the nets after the bike polo play.
Ashland residents Gail Patton of 822 Michele Ave and Cassandra Toews of 1258 Rose Lane were called forward.
Patton reviewed her background as a tennis pro and said she had worked in numerous capacities teaching tennis for the past 30 years. She provided a petition signed by 109 tennis players against bike polo at the proposed location. Patton stressed that the request for relocation was not due to antagonism between the groups but due to the concerns about the court itself. She explained that the top surface of the tennis courts was constructed of latex paint and sand. The surface was fairly soft and could not withstand the metal petals of the bikes, resulting in dents and divots on court surfaces. She stated that efforts to remove skid marks by pressure-washing seemed to occur about once per year.
Patton highlighted annual high school tennis tournaments at Hunter Park, stating that the events were well-attended and included people from outside the area. Comments from participants indicated that games on Court 5 were negatively impacted by the condition of the court’s surface.
Patton told stories about how the use of the tennis courts for other sports had changed the traditional use designated exclusively for tennis players. Since bike polo had been permitted, others assumed that the courts were open to rollerblade sports, and skateboarders as well as bikes. The signs, in fact, still prohibited those uses. She concluded by noting that Ashland had a large tennis community and the tennis courts should be considered a tennis venue. She added that if bike polo was an up-and-coming sport in Ashland, they also deserved their own venue.
Toews stated that she belongs to the Ashland Tennis and Fitness Club. The Club works with APRC in assisting with maintenance and upkeep of the grounds at Hunter Park. Regular clean-up campaigns are held and landscaping is tidied. She relayed a recent experience on a Sunday morning at the court, emphasizing that there were divots and black skid marks all over that court. She explained that cleaning and repairing the courts should be on a regular basis. She noted that a multi-use facility would be of value to the community but indicated that holding bike polo on such a specialized surface (specific to tennis) was not appropriate for the venue.
Buntner acknowledged that bile polo was competing for a recreational resource. He noted that the Club was considering a multi-sport venue and they recognized that using the court was a temporary solution. He stated that two new tennis courts would shortly be open to the public at Helman School. He suggested that it would be appropriate to discuss a multi-sport venue. He further indicated that the Bike Polo Club would be willing to fundraise in support of a permanent location.
Black highlighted the request for approval of a special event. Solutions for a more permanent location for the new sport could be the focus of a follow-up discussion pending proper notice of a public process for that purpose. A decision to approve or deny the application at hand would apply to the special event only.
Miller asked about temporarily covering the tennis court surface with a material that would protect against damage. Dickens replied that temporary flooring was available but was prohibitively expensive.
Landt reminded those present that approval of the event could include conditions not yet listed. He suggested a condition for requiring plastic pedals as an example. He also advocated for a future discussion to identify an alternative to the Hunter Park tennis courts for bike polo and/or about a more permanent location for a multi-sport arena.
Gardiner stated that in his opinion, the tournament was a natural progression of what happens when a new sport begins to grow and captures interest in the community. He supported a one-year trial for the event. The application called for approval of amplification of announcements on-site as well as permission for a food vender and merchandising booth. He suggested further scrutiny to determine the impacts and appropriateness for the venue.
Shaw questioned the mechanics of the wood barriers in terms of a possible risk of damage. He suggested attaching a condition adding the responsibility to pressure wash the court as part of the clean-up after the event. Shaw stated that he had observed the Hunter Park tennis courts with all eight courts in use with people waiting for a turn – particularly on the weekends. He encouraged further future discussion regarding a proper venue for bike polo and other sports such as pickleball. He agreed that there was a need to share facilities unless the courts sustained substantial damage, in which case the matter would need to be discussed with some urgency.
Dials noted that it was on the list for discussion during the next biennial budget season.
Motion: Landt moved to approve the event known as the Jefferson Joust as outlined in the application and by staff, approving food truck sales during the hours of 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The event itself would proceed between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. and all participants would be required to use plastic pedals. Power washing would be part of the clean-up after the tournament, with the Rogue Valley Bike Polo Club the responsible party.
Gardiner suggested a friendly amendment to the motion so that the venue could extend to the adjacent court (tennis court #6). Landt accepted the friendly amendment. Shaw initiated a conversation about the feasibility of plastic pedals. A brief discussion followed about the mechanics of replacement, the practicality of replacement and the costs involved. The applicants stated that such a requirement for the tournament would restrict game play and limit the number of participants.
Gardiner proposed a second friendly amendment to the motion to eliminate a requirement for plastic pedals for this tournament only. Landt agreed.
Shaw stated that plastic pedals should be encouraged for future practices or events as long as the bike polo was conducted on a tennis court.
Final Motion: Landt moved to approve the event known as the Jefferson Joust as outlined in the application and by staff, approving food truck sales during the hours of 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The event itself would proceed between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Power washing would become part of the clean-up after the tournament, with the Rogue Valley Bike Polo Club the responsible party.
Vote: Commissioners Gardiner, Landt, Lewis and Miller voted in favor; Commissioner Shaw voted against.
The motion passed.
Black announced that the APRC would inspect the premises before and after the tournament.
Black summarized dog park objectives, stating that the proposed Clay Street Dog Park would be divided into two parts to accommodate both large dogs and small dogs. Adequate pedestrian access and circulation would encourage visitors to enjoy the property as a whole, including the YMCA Park’s existing playground, restrooms and soccer fields. Parking would need to be addressed in a way that minimized the impact on neighbors.
- Clay Street Dog Park (Action)
Public comments from the meeting held on April 25, 2016, were categorized as park design comments (77%) and traffic and safety concerns (27%). Black presented a graph that quantified all public comments, including those received by email, in writing and other forms of communication. He reported that the majority of comments came from those in favor of the dog park. People commented about alternative fencing, new restrooms, habitat preservation, homeless housing, a new playground, attractive landscaping, a dog friendly park and park safety.
YMCA Park restrooms were within a 500-foot walking distance from the middle of the proposed dog park and it would be expensive and redundant to build new facilities closer to the dog park area.
Parking had been changed based on public commentary and nine parking spaces were relocated off-street. Eighteen additional parking stalls would become a part of a project sponsored by the City, which would be working on a new right-of-way by extending McCall Street to Villard Street. The park area has been increased by one-half acre, keeping the dog park area at about 1.6 acres. Existing fencing would remain but an additional walkway planned for the east side of the dog park had been postponed.
There was an opportunity for a community garden and Black suggested adding the gardens to a list for future improvements based upon the availability of funding. The area designated for a possible garden would be left undeveloped until further development could be planned.
A trail beginning at the dog park area and traversing over to Tolman Creek Road would be improved to provide better ADA connectivity and for the convenience of residents walking from the dog park to the parking lot. Other anticipated improvements included benches along the way to take advantage of shade trees already on the property. Picnic areas were also under consideration. As planned, there would be approximately 1500 feet of walking trails throughout the property.
Black explained that the concept plan required approval by the City of Ashland Planning Department and therefore small changes to the plan were still possible.
Black reviewed estimated construction costs for the dog park of approximately $242,000. Contingency funds of 10% or $24,000 had to be set aside as well. The total project cost was approximately $267,000. Current resources dedicated to the project were $246,500. Black indicated that a reserve fund would need to be identified for the shortfall. An alternative option would be to complete the park in phases when funding became available.
Black recommended approval of the concept plan to move the project forward beginning with a pre-application review with the Ashland Planning Department.
Gardiner highlighted additional housing that was planned in close proximity to the park. He noted that there would be a need for additional parking and asked how best to ensure that parking for dog owners remained available. There followed a brief discussion about enforcement, signage and other issues.
Landt talked about extending and improving the pathway to Tolman Creek Road. He noted that the existing trail could suffice until Phase II. Black said there were some challenges to the existing trail to Tolman Creek Road as it traverses YMCA Park property. Trees along the way are valuable and would have to be considered as well.
Landt advised caution going forward with a concept plan for the improved trail. He emphasized work yet to be done such as arranging for protection of the trees and negotiations with the YMCA prior to a commitment. Discussion focused on ways to better utilize the parking lot access.
Motion: Shaw moved to approve the concept plan as presented by staff along with the accompanying proposed budget ideas discussed during the meeting. Landt seconded but proposed modifying the motion for clarity by removing the last phrase. Shaw accepted the friendly amendment.
The vote was all yes.
Black recommended a 2% COLA (Cost-of-Living Adjustment) based upon actions taken by the City of Ashland authorizing a 2% increase for their non-represented employees in positions similar to those held by APRC employees.
Black noted that the previous guideline adopted by the Commission was for 2014-2016. APRC approved the guideline previously by using the CIP-W index and a twelve-month timeline of March to March. He explained the historic data, highlighting the rising trend. While the CPI-W index indicated a 1.5% increase in the cost of living, adding .5% would allow APRC to match the current rates approved by the City of Ashland. Black spoke favorably about the value of pay equality and the importance of remaining consistent with the City of Ashland. In answer to a question by Gardiner, Black stated that the index would be applied at the beginning of the fiscal year, July 1, 2016. He assured the Commission that the increase was accounted for in the budget.
Landt reviewed APRC’s decision to adjust the cost of living to match actual inflation rates as closely as possible. He explained the logic and talked about the importance of the standard adopted. He also reflected that if APRC employees were underpaid, then a “catch-up” percentage was appropriate. APRC’s responsibility to ensure wage equality was a fairness issue. Deviating from the standard was more difficult to justify if not directly tied to the cost of living.
Further discussion focused on using the index as a guideline only, factoring in other job equality. In response to a question by Landt, Black stated that a comparison of like job descriptions for APRC and the City of Ashland indicates that APRC pay is slightly under wages paid by the City for some employees.
Motion: Landt moved to authorize APRC to provide a 1.5% COLA increase based on the CPI-W index. In addition, a catch-up adjustment of .5% could be provided for a total 2% COLA. Miller seconded,
Gardiner relayed reservations about the use of the word catch-up. Shaw stated that he would be more comfortable with a straight 2% COLA.
Motion: Landt restated that consistent with APRC’s policy to stay current with the cost of living, APRC would provide an increase of 1.5% based upon the CPI-W index. APRC would also provide a .5% catch-up increase for a total of 2%. Miller seconded.
Vote: Commissioners Gardiner, Landt, Lewis, and Miller voted in favor; Commissioner Shaw voted against.
The motion passed.
SUBCOMMITTEE AND STAFF REPORTS
Black noted that the City of Ashland Finance Director conducted a budget analysis each quarter. First quarter reviews for APRC contained no red flags and in fact validated that revenues and expenses were on target. APRC was at 41% of the biennium budget, with expenses at 39%. Some line items were at 36%. Money set aside in the CIP (Capital Improvement Fund) would remain unspent until major projects such as Garfield Park were completed. Black stated that the unspent $850,000 budget for Garfield Park had more to do with the construction season than with the biennium CIP budget. CIP balances simply reflected a lag time between the monies budgeted and project payouts.
- Third Quarter Goals and Budget Update (Information)
Black reported positive momentum for a regional swimming pool. Other top priorities included a Trails and Open Space plan and a Master Plan for Lithia Park. He stated that staff was currently working on the criteria for an RFP (request for proposal) for Lithia Park. Landt complimented the Director on the good progress made on the top five goals for the first year of the 15-17 biennium.
Shaw called for an update on the bridge work above North Mountain Park called Rocky Top. Dickens relayed that some preliminary engineering had been completed for the project and there were some estimates on hand. The project manager was working on obtaining the permits needed to begin repairs. The next step would be to determine how to fund the repairs. Dickens noted that the costs would be substantial – over $50,000 – and that no resources had been set aside for that purpose. Black stated that APRC planned to ask the City for assistance to help defray the costs of repair.
Black said the performance audit was approximately 60% complete. The auditors had completed background material and forwarded best practices. The final piece was expected to be completed within the week. Black noted that the full audit would be reviewed by the Commissioners at the June 27 regular meeting.
ITEMS FROM COMMISSIONERS
- Scheduling Overlapping Events
Gardiner talked about the recently held Siskiyou de Mayo and noted that it was held on the same day as the annual Migratory Bird Day event at North Mountain Park. He stated that in his opinion, multiple events would continue to be held on weekends.
Landt indicated that two events on the same day were not necessarily a problem unless the events were scheduled so that participants had to choose one event over another.
UPCOMING MEETING DATES
Study Session – June 20, 2016 @ The Grove 1195 E. Main Street—7:00 p.m.
Regular Meeting – June 27, 2016 @ Council Chambers 1175 E. Main Street—7:00 p.m.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 9:00 p.m.
Betsy Manuel, Assistant
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.