Agendas and Minutes

Ashland Parks & Recreation Commission (View All)

Parks Commission Regular Meeting

Monday, October 27, 2014

City of Ashland
October 27, 2014

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

Absent:     City Council Liaison – Mayor John Stromberg

Seffinger called the meeting to order at 7:02 p.m. in Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street.

Study Session – September 15, 2014

MOTION Gardiner moved to approve the minutes as presented. Shaw seconded the motion.
The vote was: All yes [Landt and Shaw abstained]

Regular Meeting – September 22, 2014

MOTION Landt moved to approve the minutes as presented. Lewis seconded the motion.
The vote was: All yes

Brian Comnes, 444 Park Ridge Place, speaking as an Ashland resident and community gardener, spoke in favor of raised beds in community gardens for anyone interested, not just for those with ADA needs. Benefits were reported to include better gopher and weed control. Comnes said access to the gardens at Ashland Creek Park was challenging for those with mobility issues, since Water and Oak streets were narrow and lacking in sidewalks.

The item entitled “Discussion and Action on Recommendation from Tree Commission and City Council on Plaza Tree Replacement” was moved from “New Business” to “Subcommittee and Staff Reports.”


Dickens said the October 20 study session included a discussion about gopher protections in the community gardens at Ashland Creek Park. Staff was asked to provide a cost breakdown for installing hardware cloth within each individual plot versus installing hardware cloth three-feet-deep around the perimeter. Staff learned that installing a perimeter barrier underground would cost approximately $2,000 as opposed to more than $7,000 for lining each plot. Given the lower price (still within the commission’s spending authority) and the potentially reduced problems with future irrigation repairs, staff moved forward with trenching the perimeter and installing a one-quarter-inch mesh barrier three feet deep.

Discussion Among Commissioners
Shaw reported visiting the gardens and seeing the perimeter gopher screening, which he felt would be helpful.

Landt said the direction from the commission after the October 20 meeting was to check out costs for the two options and report back to the commission. While that did not happen, he felt staff made a good decision by moving forward without commission approval. He thanked staff for using their own discretion as it was the right thing to do in this instance and saved the commission $5,000.

In terms of raised beds, Gardiner said he heard, at the same study session, commission consensus to not build raised beds but to allow gardeners to build their own. Dickens said ADA raised beds could be built for gardeners if needed.

At the October study session, Shaw said the commission discussed a proposal to open two additional park areas to dogs on leash: “Rocky Top” at the upper section of North Mountain Park and Ashland Creek Park, Ashland’s 19th park located at 27 E. Hersey Street.

Rocky Top at North Mountain Park
A Google map of Rocky Top was reviewed and its elevation and pathway discussed. The neighboring homeowners’ association previously voiced support for the upper park’s designation as a dog-friendly area. Black said the commission requested a separate sectioning off of Rocky Top and staff felt this was possible.

Motion: Shaw moved to make the Rocky Top section of North Mountain Park dog friendly, with Woof Waste stations and signage installed. Seffinger seconded the motion.

Discussion of Motion
Landt said the agenda notice hadn’t been clearly communicated to the public; the wording was not specific to the discussion underway. He said this had happened before, with the item title not explaining the topic. As a proponent of community involvement, he would not be able to vote positively on the item due to a lack of clear public notice. Seffinger said the commission went into the neighborhood community association and asked residents for their input. This constituted one form of soliciting public input; however, she understood that agenda items needed to be clearly outlined to the public. Landt said North Mountain Park was a nature preserve and the commission earlier decided to keep it separate from the dog friendly list.

The vote was:
Seffinger, Shaw, Lewis – yes
Gardener, Landt – no

Ashland Creek Park
Staff reported that Ashland Creek Park, while in the same section of land as the creek flowing through, could be signed in such a way as to keep dogs on leash only in non-riparian portions of the seven-acre parcel.

Shaw said he wanted to make a motion to include Ashland Creek Park on the dog friendly parks list, with staff creating appropriate signage to keep dogs away from the riparian areas.
Lewis said there had been plenty of public comment and due diligence regarding Rocky Top as a potential dog friendly park area but not so for Ashland Creek Park. He expressed interest in soliciting more public comment before voting on opening it to dogs on leash. Landt said Ashland Creek Park had wildlife values requiring protection from dogs. He agreed with Lewis about the need for more public input and said there was ample time to discuss this matter and little reason to act now. Gardiner asked whether dogs had been allowed in the community gardens at Ashland Creek Park and Black said technically no, since E. coli was a big concern.
Black said his understanding from speaking with the former Parks Director was that all future parks would be designated “dog friendly.” Given that, he asked if the dog discussion needed to come up every time a new park was built.

Shaw stated that people had dogs the way people had children. He’d asked some years ago for dogs to be allowed in Ashland parks and he appreciated the commission’s support of the majority of Ashland parks being dog friendly. If restrictions were to be imposed for Ashland Creek Park, he asked those areas to be identified. He suggested opening future parks to dogs unless there was a compelling reason not to do so.

Lewis suggested establishing criteria for any dog exceptions. He said allowing dogs in all future parks might be mostly true but not completely true.

Gardener said it would be responsible for the commission to address this matter and make a ruling on each park in terms of off-limit areas for dogs. Landt said new parks were rare and there was no clear reason to create a policy as proposed by Gardiner and Lewis. Shaw suggested posting a notice at the park inviting neighbors to attend upcoming commission meetings and provide input on dogs.

The commission agreed to discuss the topic of dogs at Ashland Creek Park at their November study session and regular meeting: November 17 and November 24.

At the October study session, Seffinger said staff reported on the auditors’ suggestion for a resolution on the unique relationship between the City and Parks.

Black read a letter he wrote to Mayor Stromberg and the Ashland City Council on behalf of the commission. Black reported attending an Audit Committee meeting that afternoon and hearing about the Parks Commission’s Comprehensive Unit Financial Report (CUFR). Parks had its own audits, separate from the City’s, and Parks auditors’ letters were not meant to be included in City audits. Currently there were no identified issues requiring resolution; these were merely “wish list” items the auditors wanted to see resolved. Parks was said to hold a spotless audit record.

Landt said the letter prepared and read by Black was judicious.

Motion: Landt moved to accept the letter by Director Black entitled “Resolution Requested Regarding Auditors’ Suggestion for a Determination” as written and read. Gardiner seconded the motion.

Discussion of Motion
Landt said the commission had existed since 1908, it had won awards and it drew people from throughout the region to its parks system. Paying an attorney to look into the matter further would be a waste of taxpayers’ money. He was in support of the draft resolution and hoped council would be receptive to it.

Lewis said both the commission and council recently approved the joint MOU, thereby formalizing and institutionalizing what had been in place for over 100 years. Since it was now formalized and legalized, both parties could move on.

The vote was: All yes

Seffinger thanked Black for writing such an eloquent letter.

Discussion and Action on Recommendation from Tree Commission and City Council on Plaza Tree Replacement
Dickens said the Ashland Tree Commission recommended two varieties of trees for replacing the red maple on the Plaza: Quercus macrocarpa bur oak and Quercus rubra red oak. Parks was asked by City staff to recommend its tree preference. Parks knew the red oak to be susceptible to aphid infestations and the bur oak to have the potential for a wide diameter, possibly too large for the planting area. Dickens said he talked to a local arborist and together they felt a Shumard red oak would not pose a problem with aphids; however, if aphids became troublesome, staff could release ladybugs, praying mantis or lacewings, all of which were effective at keeping aphids under control. Black said staff felt comfortable making the decision at the staff level.

Commissioners thanked staff for their research and for working with the Tree Commission to find a suitable tree for the Plaza.

Ice Rink Planning Action
Dials said the good news was the ice rink would open on Monday, November 17, and the bad news was the rink would open without a cover.

Dials said the new rink cover was erected in 2013 but did not follow a proper planning process. Parks was notified of concerns related to the lack of permitting after the Planning Department received a complaint from a bordering homeowner. When the Planning and Legal departments reviewed the planning process following the complaint, it became clear that some errors were made in the application process.

The planning process required a site plan review and a public meeting with the Planning Commission to allow neighbors to comment on the project. The cover could not be erected until at least November 26, allowing for the Planning Commission meeting on November 12 and a subsequent ten-day appeals period. While disappointed, staff realized that fixing the unfortunate error was in the best interests of the department and the community. Staff would move forward on setting up the rink for its scheduled opening date of November 17 but without a cover. Once Parks completed the planning process, options would include:

1.Closure of the ice rink for up to two weeks sometime between December 1 – 18 to erect the cover in time for the holiday skating season;
2.If time did not allow putting up the cover due to planning action appeals, the ice rink cover would not be included in the 2014-15 season.

Dials said the outcome would be determined by the decision of the Planning Commission and the appeals process. If the rink operated without a cover during the 14-15 season, staff would be expecting to see a loss in revenues over the previous year.

Black said this was disappointing as Parks and the citizens of Ashland had invested a great deal of time, energy and money into providing this community resource. Every day without a cover was a day in which the ice rink could close down. With all the feedback about needing to be entrepreneurial, this was truly disappointing.
Discussion Among Commissioners
Landt said the commission had no assurance as to what the Planning Commission might do. If not approved, Parks would own a $400,000 cover they would not be able to use. He expressed hope that the Planning Commission would take these factors  into consideration.

Shaw said he appreciated staff’s disappointment about the cover not going up at the start of the season but they were working on correcting the situation. He hoped the cover could go up after the process was completed, since a cover was needed.

Black said he reviewed the situation and, from an outside perspective, found that staff did everything possible to run the cover through proper channels. Due diligence was handled appropriately and expenditures at the time were solid. Once the Planning Director looked over the process, he saw there had been an error that needed to be corrected. The tent was still located in the developed parking lot and there was no encroachment. There was a possibility of glare for the neighbor in question so Parks might need to purchase some landscape materials to block the glare. It was also necessary to check in with the Historic Commission. The cover had been legal in the past and could be legal again. Concerned neighbors would have an opportunity to speak at the Planning Commission meeting on November 12 and attend the Historic Commission meeting on November 5. Public information on the meetings and cover progress was noticed via news release, signs posted at the rink and on the Parks Facebook page.

NRPA Report
Dickens thanked the commission for allowing staff and a commissioner to attend the NRPA annual conference in Charlotte, NC. Four people attended: Black, Dickens, Landt and McFarland, with a total conference attendance of 7,000.

Jeffrey McFarland showed a slide presentation of photos highlighting the conference: convention center, opening ceremony with a theme of social equity, trade show, playground equipment options, and classes with dynamic speakers. Dickens said some interesting, out of the ordinary ideas included a strategic planning class that discussed using a clicker to track participants’ thoughts and a skate park under a freeway overpass. Black said he appreciated hearing about parks equipment depreciation processes. He said many parks built in the Great Depression were in need of major renovations. Dickens suggested working toward achieving the 2015 NRPA Gold Medal Award for parks and recreation in the category of populations under 30,000. McFarland said he liked hearing about new uses of old spaces for parks and gaining perspective on social equity. Landt said he appreciated a class he attended on capturing all costs associated with parks and recreation systems, projects, classes and services. He said there were formulas for capturing all costs. He suggested making decisions based on true costs rather than partial costs. He also voiced support for working toward an NRPA award for Ashland Parks and Recreation and gaining recognition for the parks system.
Raised Beds – Staff Clarification
Black said some concerns were raised about a staff person’s informational email about raised beds. The email was sent as an information point only; staff had not made any recommendations about raised beds. Raised beds had the potential to use more water but no decisions were underway or completed. It was important to discuss the matter further and provide guidelines for gardeners.

Hearing commissioners ask for the item to not be included on November agendas, Black said it could be added after the first of the year. For the sake of future parks, he recommended developing a community garden policy. Gardiner said raised beds came down to water use by individuals. He asked if it was possible to administer gardeners’ water usage. Landt suggested charging more for raised beds due to higher water usage. He’d hoped to discuss this more during the annual fees and charges discussion. He suggested reviewing water use in raised beds as an educational tool for gardeners. Seffinger said allowing gardeners to build their own raised beds created a social and recreational experience for them. She emphasized the importance of water usage education.

Strategic Planning Meeting – December 15
Gardiner asked if the strategic planning workshop scheduled for December 15 would take the place of the study session scheduled on the same day. Black suggested having one meeting that day and eliminating the study session. Seffinger reported attending Ashland Fire and Rescue’s strategic planning workshop, which she thought was handled well.

Golf Course Subcommittee Meeting Request
Gardiner asked staff to schedule a Golf Course Subcommittee meeting before the strategic planning meeting. Black said staff would schedule the meeting.

Land Acquisition Subcommittee Meeting Request
Landt asked staff to schedule a Land Acquisition Subcommittee meeting before the end of next week. Black said staff would schedule the meeting.

Community Garden Policy
Gardiner suggested creating a community garden policy. Black agreed, stating that the commission was in the community garden business and a policy would be useful. Landt suggested a moratorium on raised beds until such time as the commission could create the policy. Black said it would be difficult to enforce an informal moratorium. Landt suggested notifying gardeners about the development of a community garden policy in January.

  • Study session set for November 17 at 7:00 p.m., Parks office, 340 S. Pioneer Street. Topics:
    • Strategic Planning Meeting Discussion
    • Dogs at Ashland Creek Park Discussion
  • Regular meeting set for November 24 at 7:00 p.m., Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street. Topics:
    • Bee City USA
    • Ice Rink Planning Action Outcome
    • Program Cost Recovery Report
ADJOURNMENT– By consensus, with no further business, Seffinger adjourned the meeting at 8:49 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Susan Dyssegard, Executive Assistant
Ashland Parks and Recreation

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