Agendas and Minutes

Ashland Parks & Recreation Commission (View All)

Parks Commission Study Session and Special Meeting

Monday, October 20, 2014

City of Ashland
October 20, 2014


Present: Commissioners Gardiner, Landt, Seffinger, Shaw; Director Black; Superintendents Dials and Dickens

Absent:   Commissioner Lewis; City Council Liaison - Mayor John Stromberg

Seffinger called the study session to order at 7:02 p.m. at the Parks Office, 340 S. Pioneer Street.

Dickens provided a report on Ashland Creek Park construction:

  • Community garden fenceposts and irrigation lines installed

  • Playground area prepped for equipment installation

  • Asbestos cleanup completed, with workers digging four feet deep throughout the zone

Staff felt prepared to discuss gopher protection and raised beds. The construction budget was exceeded due to cost overruns for asbestos removal. Raised beds were not included in the original budget figures. Costs for raised beds were outlined:

  • 10x10 = $300, including redwood and soil, plus $100 for irrigation within each plot

  • Average cost for all raised beds = $10,000

  • Perimeter screens for each plot = $7,000

For gopher protection, Dickens suggested hardware cloth with ½-inch wire mesh at grade level only; however, should an irrigation break occur, staff would need to cut the wire out. Meeting participants discussed the depth to which gophers burrowed (more than 12 inches) and their ability to climb over tops of garden fences.

Public Input

Community garden manager Linda Chesney said staff sent out a survey in November 2013 to gauge gardeners’ priorities and needs. Survey results and associated meeting feedback showed top priorities of raised beds and gopher protection. Since gophers went over fence tops but mostly burrowed underneath, extra protective cloth would be appreciated.

Ann Cramer, PO Box 323 in Ashland, speaking as the volunteer garden manager, said it would be necessary to dig down four to five feet and hit bedrock before achieving good results with gopher proofing.

Cheryl Lewis, 640 A Street, along with Suzanne Perillat and Kathy Stasny, fellow gardeners, said all other community gardens in Ashland parks previously included raised beds; however, some were only eight inches high. If raised beds were built at Ashland Creek Park, they would need to be higher than eight inches. If the department decided they could not gopher proof the entire garden area, Lewis suggested allowing gardeners to gopher proof their own beds before laying out their soil.

Discussion Among Commissioners and Staff

Black said perimeter gopher proofing with fabric could be installed without a big budgetary impact. Hardware cloth would work best and staff could look into providing the material for gardeners. Shaw asked if the department covered similar costs at other community gardens in the City. Chesney said yes but other raised beds had compacted soil and gophers were not as big a problem. In terms of wire mesh versus perimeter fencing for gopher proofing, Landt said if either was acceptable, he preferred the cheaper option. Black said staff would look into both options and provide cost estimates. In terms of the park budget overage, it was questioned whether the commission would need to seek council approval for the additional expenditures. Dials said since funds were budgeted in the CIP for Ashland Creek Park, it might not be necessary to gain such approval.

The commission agreed to discuss the matter in more detail and take action at their regular meeting on Monday, October 27.

Landt summarized the discussion, stating that staff would bring two options to the commission meeting on Monday, October 27: pros and cons / price comparisons / staff recommendations for perimeter fencing versus hardware cloth for gopher protections at Ashland Creek Park. If perimeter fencing were selected, staff and community members suggested a two-foot depth.

For raised beds, Seffinger asked for comments and suggestions.

Ann Cramer said the most cost-effective, sustainable gardening that included gopher protection did not require raised beds. Raised beds could be created in garden areas without the use of wooden frames.

Landt spoke about the Site Design and Use Standards document created years earlier by the City of Ashland in which berms and raised beds were discouraged.

Black clarified that two questions were on the table with respect to raised beds: 1) were raised beds appropriate for use in City of Ashland parks; and 2) would gardeners build them or would they be built by Parks staff?

Seffinger said ADA raised bed plots were required for those needing higher gardening areas.

Commissioners expressed opinions about not providing raised beds for gardeners except for ADA gardeners and for allowing gardeners to build their own raised beds if they wished to have them.

Landt said there was no urgency about discussing this point at the October 27 meeting. He suggested addressing the topic again during the annual cost recovery discussion.

By consensus, Seffinger adjourned out of study session at 7:51 p.m.

By consensus, Seffinger adjourned into special meeting at 7:51 p.m.

Black said the City Administrator proposed an incentive program based on previous Ad hoc Committee meetings between Parks and Council. Requested was a method by which Parks could retain its ending budget fund balance. Welcomed to speak were Seffinger and Landt of Parks as well as Councilors Pam Marsh and Rich Rosenthal, all of whom served on the committee. Black reported hearing of the incentive program a few weeks earlier at a meeting at which it was also revealed to Marsh and Rosenthal. Within the program parameters, Parks would be able to keep its proceeds from recreation programs. Although described as simple, the document was two pages in length.

Seffinger asked Marsh and Rosenthal to provide background information on how the program was developed and how it could positively affect Parks.

Marsh stated that out of the Ad hoc Committee meetings came a request for the City Administrator to find a method to allow Parks to retain recreation program proceeds with the aid of an incentive program. The current system did not allow Parks to expand its budget via risky or entrepreneurial efforts. The program stemmed from a pure instinct to allow Parks to control its own financial destiny. If there were identifiable concerns about the proposal, Marsh suggested capturing those and having City staff investigate them. Rosenthal thanked Marsh for her summary. Given the Parks background and all the history between the City and Parks, he said there might be a valuable opportunity within the proposed incentive program. He asked the commission not to reject the proposal outright but to run the numbers and see if it made sense.

Discussion Among Commissioners

Landt said the issue was more about process and the process had to make sense. The Parks Director needed to be integrally involved in the process. He understood the draft policy was going before the Budget Committee but the Budget Committee did not deal with policies and this was a proposed policy change provided by the City Administrator. Landt read a draft resolution he prepared. After a full study review, the commission could choose to use the proposed incentive policy or not. In the interim, his proposed resolution was an attempt to move forward in a positive, collaborative way.

Shaw said he was not opposed to Landt’s resolution, although it might require some minor adjustments.

Black said the resolution could be in the form of a motion rather than a resolution. The incentive program was going before the Budget Committee on October 27.

Landt said the draft incentive program came from the City Administrator; it was not a joint effort between the City Administrator and the Parks Director. He said his resolution could recalibrate the process.

Marsh agreed with others that the process was inappropriate but stemmed out of the original Ad hoc Committee’s recommendation for Parks to develop a process for independently incentivizing its programs and associated revenues. She said no one would be forcing the City Administrator’s policy on anyone. Rosenthal asked for clarity about whether the Parks Commission could support the City Administrator’s proposal.

Black voiced support for Landt’s resolution and said it would be a good starting point. Staff could then come back with a recommendation based on the Landt resolution.

MOTION: Landt moved as follows: “The Parks Commission supports investigating opportunities for creating incentive programs for Ashland’s Parks and Recreation system.

“The Parks Commission also supports the Parks Director working with the City Administrator to achieve this goal, if the Director determines that the collaboration would be in the best interests of the Parks Department.

“Since creating an incentive program would be a policy decision, any Parks incentive program would require a vote of the Parks Commission before implementation.”

Shaw seconded the motion.

Vote: All yes (Lewis was not in attendance)

Seffinger thanked Marsh and Rosenthal for attending the meeting. Black said he would write a post-action summary for the City Administrator and request a meeting to discuss it. He would also send a copy to Budget Committee member Roberta Stebbins. Shaw asked Black to request a postponement of the City’s Administrator’s proposal at the October 27 Budget Committee meeting.

By consensus, Seffinger adjourned out of the special meeting at 8:17 p.m.

By consensus, Seffinger adjourned into study session at 8:17 p.m.

bee city usa – involvement by parks
Black reported meeting with members of the Bee City USA Committee who asked about the Parks Commission’s interest in participating in the Bee City USA program. The City Administrator and council said any involvement would need to be brought forward by the Parks Commission. Black asked if the commission had interest in applying for the designation on behalf of the City of Ashland. Seffinger said the designation would provide an opportunity to teach community members about pollinators and bees and promote more bees and pollinating plants in Ashland.

Black outlined five required standards for this designation:

1) Establish a Bee City USA Subcommittee
2) Develop a Bee City USA Resolution
3) Agree to publicly acknowledge the Bee City USA designation (post at least one sign in the City and create links on the City of Ashland website)
4) Agree to publicly celebrate the Bee City USA designation annually5) 
Agree to re-apply for Bee City USA designation and summarize annual activities to raise awareness of and sustain pollinators

Public Input

Kristina Lefever, 2359 Blue Sky Lane, representing Bee City USA, commended the commission on their discussion about community gardens. She asked the commission and gardeners to think about the plants they would have in the gardens and she encouraged new plantings that would draw more pollinators. She suggested expanding on what N. Mountain Park had done. She recommended educating the populace about the importance of pollinators and said one native bee species had been lost.

Dr. Peter Schroeder, Associate Professor of Biology at SOU, said bumble bees and other native bees had shown a decline for several years. He offered to serve as a bee advisor to the commission.

William Gearen, Coordinator of the ECOS community garden on the SOU campus and an SOU Beekeeping Club officer, said he was astonished by the high level of interest in beekeeping in Ashland. He asked to be kept in mind for any bee-related projects, along with the SOU Beekeeping Club.

Meadow Sweet of Talent said she was awed by the pesticide-free parks in Ashland and she wanted that for Talent.  A new park had been provided for Talent residents: Barefoot Park, in which Talent agreed to provide a year-long pilot program of no spraying. She and others had been speaking with educators and community members about bees, pollinators and community gardens.

Discussion Among Commissioners

Black said council would be the body taking official action but the subcommittee would reside with the Parks Commission. Hearing two commissioners express interest, Black said the item would appear on the October 27 regular meeting agenda for further discussion and a vote.

dogs subcommittee report
Shaw distributed a report memo from Black and said the Dogs Subcommittee met on September 29 to discuss dog friendly parks and other dog-related topics. The subcommittee was recommending that the commission add Ashland Creek Park to the “dog friendly” category as well as the “Rocky Top” area of North Mountain Park. Shaw said the adjacent homeowners association wrote a letter asking for the dog friendly designation for Rocky Top. Woof Waste stations and garbage cans could be added, making it a truly dog friendly area in which people would clean up after their dogs. The area was currently being used for dog walking by dog owners. He asked for the item to be placed on the October 27 regular meeting agenda.

Landt said he originally believed that all of North Mountain Park should be off-limits to dogs but he now saw compelling reasons to change that ruling. For Ashland Creek Park, he asked for staff input about keeping dogs out of the riparian area and wildlife creek corridor.

Black said it would come down to signage and enforcement for Ashland Creek Park, with regular enforcement requested and provided.

Gardiner asked if there was any regular enforcement of dogs off leash in parks. He reported regularly seeing dogs off leash in Garden Way Park.

Seffinger said some cities required dog rule breakers to watch educational videos about why dogs were required to stay on leash.

The commission agreed to place the item on the October 27 regular meeting agenda.

2015 Subcommittee AssignmentS
Seffinger said a subcommittee review would occur in the December timeframe but she wanted the commission to have the full list of current subcommittee assignments. Current subcommittees were reported to include Ashland Creek Park, Dogs, Forest Land Commission, Golf Course, Joint Powers Committee, Open Space, Public Arts Commission and Signs, Plaques & Memorials. She said the Bee Subcommittee would be added to this list. She asked the commission to think about assignments they wished to participate in during 2015.

Landt suggested having this discussion at the regular meeting in January 2015.

Parks Audit Report Findings Review
Black said Ashland Parks and Recreation performed an annual audit on all finance aspects of the department. At the conclusion of each audit, auditors provided a post-audit letter describing their findings of deficiency and any recommendations for corrective action. The list requiring corrective action was then addressed and the items followed up on throughout the year by the Audit Committee. Items discussed in the letters were not auditing issues, yet they consistently returned within audit letters.

Black felt the issues arising in the audit letters were resolved via the recently approved MOU between the City and Parks. He proposed writing a letter to council on behalf of the commission addressing the matter. Also, the City Attorney could be working on an opinion as to whether Parks was a department of the City or its own entity. If so, Black suggested hiring an attorney to review the matter on behalf of the Parks Commission.

Landt agreed to the proposal by Black but asked that the discussion and vote occur at the October 27 regular meeting.

Commissioners agreed to take this action as an elected body on October 27, 2014.

Commission meeting schedule discussion
Commissioners discussed holding two separate meetings in November and December (study sessions and regular meetings) or holding one meeting per month to accommodate busy holiday schedules.

Staff said they would determine whether a quorum of commissioners was available in November for both a study session and a regular meeting.

For December, the commission discussed holding a single meeting unless there was a great deal of work, thereby warranting both a study session and a regular meeting.

date for strategic planning session
Black suggested holding a strategic planning session before the budget process began in the spring. He said December or January would be preferable months. Seffinger suggested linking commission goals to council goals, as those would be fundable projects. Landt suggested holding the meeting sooner rather than later.

Staff agreed to send out a meeting poll within the next week.

council / commission joint meeting request
It was agreed that any joint meeting would occur after the Parks Commission strategic planning session.

staff and commissioner comments
Black said he would present an NRPA conference report on Monday, October 27.

Landt said he attended NRPA and found it to be inspiring, especially the keynote speaker. The three pillars of a parks and recreation organization were said to include conservation, health and social justice and Ashland had done those things. Another piece he found inspiring was a competition held every year, a gold medal award. Since Ashland had a robust parks system, he suggested working on getting a competitive award from NRPA in the future. He said Ashland’s parks system, its staff and the community deserved such recognition.

Gardiner agreed about the need to work toward such an award.

A beekeeper, Gardener expressed interest in serving on the Bee Subcommittee.

Shaw said a visiting out-of-town friend recently commented favorably on the recycling baskets attached to garbage cans in Ashland parks. He asked if that program could be expanded. Dickens said he had ordered 20 more baskets and Talent would be implementing a similar program along with Pleasanton, CA.  

Seffinger said she was impressed with the commission’s handling of the meeting that evening and she had a great deal of respect for them.

By consensus, with no further business, Seffinger adjourned the study session at 9:13 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Susan Dyssegard, Executive Assistant
Ashland Parks and Recreation


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