Agendas and Minutes

Ashland Parks & Recreation Commission (View All)

Parks Commission Study Session

Monday, November 21, 2016

City of Ashland
November 21, 2016

Present:  Commissioners Gardiner, Landt, Lewis, Miller; Director Black; Superintendents Dickens and Dials; Executive Assistant Dyssegard; Assistant Manuel
Absent: Commissioner Shaw; City Council Liaison Mayor Stromberg
Chair Gardiner called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. at The Grove, 1195 E. Main Street
Black introduced YMCA Executive Director Lisa Molnar and said he invited her to speak to the Commissioners about the YMCA and its history and background, particularly with regard to their use of the YMCA Park.
Molnar said she had served as the Ashland YMCA’s Executive Director for more than twenty-eight years and was prepared to share some historical perspective about the YMCA Park and the Y’s relationship with the City of Ashland and Ashland Parks and Recreation (APRC). She said collaborative agreements between the entities had resulted in the Y’s role as Ashland’s primary provider of youth services.
Molnar introduced former and current YMCA Board members in attendance. She said they were prepared to talk about the growth of the Y and the origins of a partnership and agreements with the City of Ashland and APRC with a goal toward shared use of the park. Molnar explained that long-time Board member John Maurer would speak about early efforts to establish and strengthen the YMCA organization. Former Board President and Municipal Judge Allen Drescher would describe the intent of the original deed for the park and current concerns at the park, with a proposal for moving forward. Kelsey Rittenhouse, the Y’s Community Programs Director, was charged with explaining current uses in the park and impacts for participating children. Molnar would follow the presentations by describing the benefits received by the community as a result of the extraordinary partnership between the City of Ashland, APRC and the YMCA.                 
John Maurer of 1085 Elkader St. in Ashland was called forward.
Maurer stated that the Y had provided premier services for Ashland’s youth for three generations and its growth exemplified best practices for community relations. He highlighted the response from the City and the Ashland community that assisted the Y in the struggle to stay fiscally afloat while offering programs to all the youth in Ashland. Maurer noted that the Y was not an exclusive club, since no child was denied access to YMCA programs. Annual fundraisers had been implemented over the years, setting in place a robust scholarship program that allowed children to participate even if their families could not afford to pay YMCA activity fees. 
Maurer detailed the quest for a full-service facility initiated in the early 1980s. He said this capital campaign began at a time when interest rates were very high. Ultimately $1,500,000 for the $2,000,000 building was raised. The City waived systems development costs and other building fees to facilitate the purchase of the property intended to house the new Y facility. Because of the thrust to build the facility, operating funds were scarce and the Y turned to the City of Ashland for additional assistance. Former Parks Director Ken Mickelsen stepped in with an offer to purchase the land adjacent to the facility. This property became known as the YMCA Park, a public park maintained by APRC for use by the Y. In return, the Y agreed to provide for Ashland’s youth.        
Maurer reported that the most pressing current issue was ongoing disruptive behavior of transients using the restroom facilities and camping in the parking lot. Graffiti left behind was graphic and drug paraphernalia had been found. Transients appeared threatening at times, putting children in the park at risk.      
Allen Drescher of 2150 2nd Ave in Ashland was next to speak.
Drescher stated that the YMCA was primarily concerned about the safety of the children. Behavioral issues of transients frequenting the park had escalated beyond verbal abuse and vandalism and there was a pervasive threat of violence. Ashland police were unable to adequately protect the children by removing troublemakers due to the public nature of the park. 
Drescher voiced support for the park becoming private property under the auspices of the YMCA. The Y would be able to request assistance from Ashland Police who could cite or arrest trespassers straying onto the property, with a goal toward halting harmful activities. Without those protections, children would remain at risk and any potential liability could be the responsibility of the City of Ashland and APRC.         
Drescher indicated that a temporary lease of the property by the YMCA for an interim period of twelve months could be a short-term solution, allowing time to pursue a more permanent answer.
Molnar noted that the Y acts as an extension of Ashland’s schools—providing activities when school was not in session. Rittenhouse relayed that after-school programs serve approximately 150 children on a daily basis. Y camps, held during the twelve weeks when school is not in session, serve approximately 700 children. A variety of outdoor programs are offered ranging from sports camps to educational activities to arts and crafts. Approximately 300 children turn out for soccer and up to 250 children participate in flag football. Pre-schoolers utilize the park pavilion and playground. Rittenhouse noted that children had been asking questions about things seen at the park, including broken beer bottles, needles in the bathrooms and even a crack pipe.         
Molnar highlighted conversations held in 1986 when she began with the Y. The agreement between the City, APRC and the YMCA was extraordinary in that the YMCA Park was designated primarily for use by the Y.  Parks Director Mickelesen agreed that the Y would provide youth programs, relieving the Parks Department from that responsibility. In return, Parks would provide landscaping and maintenance for the park. Over the years, services provided by the Y became ever more valuable, with the Y meeting the needs for youth services and eliminating the need for the City to duplicate programs.    
Molnar stated that the collaboration with the City and APRC was greatly appreciated. Such ongoing support had facilitated a cost-effective business model that attracted statewide attention for its low-cost membership fees and scholarship program. Benefits extended to the parents in Ashland who know that the Y provided a healthy and stimulating environment for their children when childcare was needed. Molnar asked for assistance to meet today’s challenges by facilitating a safer place for Ashland’s children.        
Black agreed to work with the YMCA on behalf of APRC.    
Recreation Superintendent Dials noted direction from the Commissioners that led to the creation of a subcommittee to address the existing Calle seating policy for possible amendments. The directive included public input as well as selective input by the subcommittee members. Membership included one restaurant owner with assigned seating on the Calle, one restaurant owner without seating, a representative from the Lithia Artisans Market and Commissioners Miller and Gardiner along with APRC staff. The subcommittee met five times between November 2015 and October 2016, when the subcommittee was disbanded.
Sensitive topics included priority criteria, rules governing seniority, proximity and the transfer of space. Restaurant owners with secured spaces incorporated them into their business plans, with outdoor seating becoming essential for the prosperity of those restaurants. Space directly behind a restaurant was normally assigned to the geographically associated restaurant; however, some restaurants did not qualify for outdoor seating due to rules outlined in the current policy. The subcommittee had tried to fairly allocate additional outdoor seating for non-included restaurants but consensus could not be reached, leaving those restaurant owners without options for obtaining outdoor seating.
Subcommittee discussions had also focused on protocols for the transfer of space from one restaurant owner to the next. Discussion ensued around the establishment of a restaurant association with a charge of administering the Calle and its uses rather than making it the responsibility of APRC. A plan to allocate space fairly based on seniority and proximity also remained unresolved.
It was agreed that the Lithia Artisans Market was a valuable element in the success of the surrounding businesses. The Market had been assured that no space would be taken from their allotment. Artisans had requested further expansion of the Market, possibly moving some vendors to the grassy strip adjacent to the entrance sidewalk bordering Lithia Park. Dials noted that this concept would need further research and APRC discussion. Gardiner clarified that the expansion proposal was for the purpose of increasing the number of spaces available to Calle restaurateurs by moving some Market artisans to the other location.
Dials summarized changes to the policy: defining “adjacent to,” defining “season” and adding language that permitted restaurants “the ability to share space with another restaurant.”
Subcommittee members were in agreement that restaurant owners should have the flexibility to share space.
Discussion among Commissioners
Shaw inquired about ways to delineate the spaces if an expansion were approved. Black replied that while there were options, care must be taken to protect the trees in that area.
Miller commented that the subcommittee meetings were attended by various interested parties in addition to the appointed members. Those for whom space was already allocated spoke with the loudest voice. He advocated for the addition of those restaurants that were qualified but did not have space on the Calle. He acknowledged the importance of creekside seating to the success of all restaurants along the Calle and stated that the long-term goal should be congruent with efforts that would not jeopardize anyone’s business. Miller noted that extending the property lines to create more space on the Calle was a reasonable proposal, but no agreement had been reached. Gardiner reiterated that one of the options discussed was to move the Market, which could open up space for restaurants.
Gardiner stated that the formation of the subcommittee was an effort to resolve conflict, particularly with regard to space allocation. Restaurants were polarized between those with space on the Calle and those without. With no agreements in sight, he recommended that the Commissioners approve the few agreed-upon policy language changes, leaving the majority of the policy intact. He further suggested that the Commissioners discuss the possibilities for expanding the Market space to the entrance of Lithia Park.
Miller suggested revisiting the policy annually for further evaluation. Landt commented that APRC had the authority to proceed with policy amendments even if not agreed upon by the subcommittee.
There followed a brief discussion about the limited space along the Calle and efforts to create additional space. Dials highlighted an option to share space between those with seating Monday through Friday and those in need of weekends only.
Public Input
Marcus Scott of 1205 Talent Ave. in Talent was called forward.
Scott noted that he was there on behalf of the Lithia Artisans Market. He stated that the Market had enjoyed a presence on the Calle for the last 33 years. Current membership was at 92 artisans, with approximately 53 additional artisans interested in space on the Calle. He commented on vender displays in the parking lot, noting the disadvantage of the location.
Scott proposed a three-month trial to ascertain whether the expanded space in front of Lithia Park would be advantageous. He suggested holding off on any hardscape to delineate the spaces until it has been vetted and agreed upon as a long-term solution. He indicated that the flexibility to share space would be welcomed by the artisans.      
Lloyd Haines of 51 Water Street in Ashland was called forward.       
Haines thanked APRC for gathering the public input and the establishment of the Calle Subcommittee. He stated that as a property owner for buildings along the Calle, he too was interested in assisting with solutions. Haines noted that a creekside bioswale took up valuable space along the Calle walkway and he would be willing to explore possibilities for a temporary covering so the space could be utilized. 
Anna Hogan of 47 N. Main in Ashland was called forward.
Hogan relayed that as a restaurant owner along the Calle, she advocated for interspersing artisans along the way, space permitting. She noted that the Lithia Artisans Market drew people into the area, increasing the potential for restaurants.

Hogan explained the importance of space on the Calle that could be depended upon, stating that many people reserved creekside seating a year in advance as part of the experience tourists expected. She responded positively about sharing space when appropriate but cautioned restaurateurs about the possibilities for liability if OLCC policy requirements were not taken into account. Black explained that it was the responsibility of each restaurant to meet OLCC requirements.      
Allan Sandler of 1260 Prospect St. in Ashland was called forward.
Sandler stated that he was an APRC supporter. As a property owner of the buildings along the Calle and a donor of the property that became the Calle, he was pleased to see how valuable the space had become.
Sandler stated that he hoped to work with APRC on a plan to incorporate new restaurants into the mix. He applauded the shared spaces, noting that the Artisans added a vital element to the space. Sandler reviewed the restaurants occupying his buildings and explained each business’s access to the Calle.
Sandler requested 36” to 42” of free space directly behind his buildings to make room for people entering or exiting the buildings. The space would also provide Ashland Fire and Rescue with access in case of fire.
Sandler spoke about a new restaurant that would begin operations in January 2017: Ex Nihilo. He stated that there would be some “shifting” on the weekends to accommodate artisans while allowing access to the building with the new restaurant. He noted that Ex Nihilo would have no access other than from the Calle. Sandler advocated for outdoor seating for all the restaurants in his buildings, including the one without direct access onto the Calle (Enoteca: access to Calle via Plaza / breezeway). He also asked for space within the proposed expanded area along the front of Lithia Park. He indicated that in his opinion, businesses would be more effective if there were allowances for mixed use (restaurants and artisans) in that area.
Finally, Sandler proposed bringing a plan forward to the Commissioners regarding adjustments that would best serve both restaurants and artisans requesting a presence along the Calle.
Jim Young of 265 N. Main #4, Ste. B in Ashland was called forward.
Young stated that he had participated in artisan markets in Eugene, Portland and Ashland for the past thirty-eight years. He stressed the importance of collaboration between the restaurants and artisans, adding that in his experience, space allocation was assigned by seniority and, once assigned, remained unchanged from year to year.
Young proposed bringing a plan forward for the governance of space allocations. In researching the Calle, he said he had noted unfilled tables on many occasions. Young expressed confidence that he could offer a plan to address space allocations whereby new restaurant owners could be integrated and existing owners would have the ability to predict their space needs on the Calle. 
Commissioner Discussion:
 Landt presented a list of changes to clarify the policy document as follows:

  • Amend the language in the document so that all references to APRC are used correctly.
  • Remove references to the price per square foot and replace with language signaling the intent to use market-based rates along with how those rates were calculated. Prices would be adjusted annually.  
  • Change the term “first priority” to “priority” unless there were other priorities to rank
In proposing those changes, Landt indicated that adjusting the prices annually could lessen the impact of a larger price increase. He stated that the rates currently in use were based on market values from the past. He suggested language such as “The seasonal square foot rate shall approximate the market rate of downtown first floor monthly square footage rates times seven months, adjusted annually.”
Lewis noted that there had been many negotiations in past years in an effort to promote fairness and maintain a balance between uses. He stated that space had always been limited and factors such as the addition of new restaurants made the space difficult to manage, i.e. “there is no magic space to accommodate them.”  Lewis agreed with Mr. Scott in that an expansion for vendors into the park road and along Winburn Way could be beneficial for artisans. He appreciated the proposed flexibility in which restaurants would work together to find a balance. He pointed out that APRC had also been open to change and had made an exception to the no-alcohol mandate in parks by allowing restaurants to serve alcohol on the Calle. He concluded by indicating that APRC did what it could to promote economic vitality.     
Shaw indicated that he would be reluctant to support commercial activity in Lithia Park and would prefer the development of additional Calle space by allowing vendors to set up on the other side of the bridge. He explained that it would be a more natural expansion because of its proximity to the Calle.   
Black called for a review of Subcommittee/Committee assignments to ensure that the Commissioners had an opportunity to review proposed listings prior to January 2017. He noted that there were two Subcommittees and one Committee not yet listed that would be added.    
Black led a thoughtful discussion about the possibilities for taking ownership of a bust of John McLaren. McLaren’s connection to Lithia Park was acknowledged but the Commissioners were unable to determine a suitable place for the plaster sculpture. An additional hurdle was identified as caring for and maintaining the bust until an appropriate venue could be identified.     
Landt expressed a concern about the long-term costs associated with such an acquisition. He noted that if an endowment was included for care of the artifact, then the wait for a suitable venue might make sense.   
  • Meeting Preview
Black noted that the agenda for the Regular meeting of November 28, 2016, would include a review of the design for Hunter Park, an update for Garfield Park and a presentation for a grant obtained for woodland management as explained by Jeffrey McFarland, Supervisor of Forestry, Trails and Open Space. He stated that he would work with Dials to amend the Calle policy for review as well.
  • Ice Rink Opening Celebration 
Dials reported that the annual Ice Rink Opening Celebration was successful with over 300 people in attendance. She expressed appreciation to Recreation Manager Lonny Flora and his rink staff.
  • Retirement Gathering
Dials announced that Parks Superintendent Bruce Dickens would be retiring on November 30, 2016, and a farewell gathering would be held at Great American Pizza Company following the Regular meeting on November 28, 2016. The farewell was open to all who wished to attend.  
  • Vandalism

Shaw noted that restrooms at the Skate Park had been out of order for some time due to vandalism. He relayed that it has been a recurring problem and he proposed installing live feed security cameras to identify the perpetrators. He noted that the technology was getting cheaper and the live feed would offer benefits to community members wishing to track their children at the park while also deterring vandalism.   
Black asked for direction regarding support for the idea. He stated that he would be happy to do the research if so directed by the Commissioners.     
There followed a brief discussion about the pros and cons of a surveillance system and whether the live feed would be accepted by the community. The consensus was affirmative. Landt was supportive but cautioned against taking time for the project at the expense of more urgent priorities.  
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:55 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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