Agendas and Minutes

Ashland Parks & Recreation Commission (View All)

Parks Commission Study Session

Monday, October 19, 2015

City of Ashland
October 19, 2015

Present:    Commissioners Gardiner, Landt, Lewis, Miller, Shaw; Director Black; Superintendents Dickens and Dials; Administrative Supervisor Dyssegard; Assistant Manuel

Absent:     City Council Liaison, Mayor Stromberg

As a courtesy to those in attendance, Gardiner changed the order of agenda items, placing the Garden Club Proposal before Unfunded Projects.
Black led the discussion, highlighting the all-inclusive nature of the City of Ashland ordinance on domestic animals. He explained that it was formerly thought that farm animals were a separate category when, in fact, they were not. Parks signs displaying the “No Animals” ordinance currently referred to only dog-related rules. Changing the ordinance to include domestic animals would provide a remedy, as all non-wild animals would then be referenced rather than just dogs. [Note: Dogs are currently allowed on leash in all designated “dog friendly” City of Ashland trails and parks, both developed and non-developed, with the exception of two: North Mountain Park near the Nature Center and all of Lithia Park except for public roadways, sidewalks and the old Pioneer Street trail.]
Dickens provided examples of park signs, noting their reference to two City of Ashland ordinances. He said current signs specific to Ashland parks were somewhat confusing in terms of whether all animals were banned [both wild and domestic] or just dogs. A resident was regularly seen in Lithia Park with goats or sheep on leash.
A suggested solution was to amend the Parks ordinance to read: “No person shall cause or permit any dog, pet or farm animal owned by him or her under his or her control or custody to enter any designated area where signs are posted stating that no domestic animals are allowed.” Guide dogs or leader dogs would be exempted from this prohibition along with hearing dogs for the deaf, seeing dogs for the blind, or service dogs assisting physically disabled persons. City police officer Matthew Carpenter stated that the Ashland police force was well trained in rules of enforcement related to the Americans with Disabilities Act.    
Carpenter noted that the local individual known for bringing leashed goats or sheep into Lithia Park was generating citizen complaints that included inappropriate disposal of animal feces and belligerence. Carpenter said the issues could be addressed on a case-by-case basis but the larger concern was whether to allow livestock in the park. He said City of Ashland ordinance 10.68.200 only prohibited dogs in areas not designated as dog-friendly. 
Carpenter highlighted the importance of amending the ordinance or enacting a rule that clarified the types of animals prohibited. He reviewed his experience with attempting to litigate a violation of the Lithia Park curfew, which was denied because the ordinance was not easily accessed. Carpenter said posting signs in parks that included both the animal ordinance title and number along with easy online access of the ordinance would assist park patrons in understanding park guidelines.              
Commissioner Discussion
There followed a debate about amending the ordinance and the process of adoption as opposed to developing an APRC rule. Shaw observed that park signage already referenced the ordinance. He recommended updating the ordinance for greater clarity. A simple reference to guide dogs or service dogs would suffice. A Commission rule could also serve as an interim action until the proposed amended ordinance could be adopted by Ashland City Council. 
Lewis noted that original Parks ordinances, enacted arond1917, referenced prohibitions on hammocks, horses, wagering and mendicants [begging] along with other antiquated words or terms.
Landt stated that ordinance 10.68.200 could be modified by including the term domestic animals. In areas where dogs are permitted, the reference could simply read “Dogs on-leash allowed.”
It was agreed that staff would provide the Commission with revisions to ordinance 10.68.200 in time for their October 26 regular meeting. Once reviewed and approved, the Commission would forward the revised wording to Ashland City Council with a recommendation for adoption.   
Ashland Garden Club board member Michael Dawkins said his club hoped to restore the rose garden in Lithia Park. He described Ashland’s historic connection to roses, including the garden in Lithia Park. On behalf of the club, he spoke about his work in preparing a new design for the original site. The design included a meandering pathway that would entice visitors to enjoy each type of rose, from heirlooms to modern tea roses, along with small works of art. Currently existing grass would be replaced with flowers and ground cover. Fencing would be softened with clematis or climbing roses.    
Dawkins referenced a spreadsheet prepared by the Garden Club [not available at the meeting] outlining a collaborative list of responsibilities for moving the project forward. He noted that a number of Garden Club volunteers would maintain the garden and club members would raise funds to cover the cost of fencing and a lockable gate.   
Dawkins understood that the site plan might need to adhere to setbacks and rights-of-way as defined by the City of Ashland. Black replied that no setbacks would be necessary if the garden was outside the right-of-way. The garden could begin at approximately 6 ½ ft. from the back of the curb.        
Black stated that people appreciated roses in Lithia Park. The APRC could assist with installation of the fence once the Commission approved a suitable design and the Garden Club raised the needed funds.
Commissioner Discussion
Landt voiced general support for the idea of an improved rose garden if it could be postponed until after completion of the Lithia Park Master Plan. Master planning experts could be consulted about the most suitable location for the garden, with consideration given to how the garden would relate to the entirety of Lithia Park.
Black noted that the master planning process would address visionary changes associated with Lithia Park for the next 50 to 100 years along with park maintenance considerations. He explained that a footprint for the rose garden already existed and refurbishing it would enhance that footprint; however, the addition of a fence, the single added element, would require Commission review. 
Shaw spoke about the deer fencing in Scenic Park, stating that it was an expensive amenity. There followed a general discussion about various fences utilized within the Parks system. Gardiner advocated for a simple deer fence. Lewis noted the special status of Lithia Park, stating that it was the jewel in the crown; implying that the fence should be aesthetically pleasing and deserving of thoughtful consideration.     
Continued discussion focused on the process for moving forward. Black stated that the existing Lithia Park rose garden was in danger of losing its identity due to a growing deer population; therefore, the Garden Club’s request to refurbish the garden was timely. Gardiner noted that the rose garden was an integral part of Lithia Park and he did not want its historic connection to be lost. He expressed a concern that the volunteer effort would be lost if the garden was postponed indefinitely.
Lewis asked whether the original site was appropriate given that full sun exposure was optimal for roses. He also asked about pesticide management in terms of keeping roses healthy. Dawkins responded, emphasizing the expertise of the Garden Club in caring for roses without the use of harmful pesticides.
Shaw encouraged the Garden Club to proceed with fundraising. Dawkins addressed rose care and expressed the hope that any fencing could be kept to a minimum to better showcase the roses. He suggested a “fast track” process to help build project momentum.
Black asked whether the Commission considered the rose garden to be a longer term or shorter term project. If its location was in doubt, the project would take longer to complete; however, if the historical site remained, the project could move ahead without awaiting completion of the Lithia Park Master Plan.
Lewis said a consensus was heard for a rose garden in Lithia Park. Other commissioners discussed the pros and cons of the project with regard to waiting on a completed Lithia Park Master Plan. Landt talked about the importance of consistency in creating guidelines for park design and maintenance standards in Ashland parks. Shaw suggested a business meeting vote to commit to the project as either long-term or short-term. Black agreed with Lewis’s point: he also heard Commission consensus for refurbishing the rose garden in Lithia Park.  
As an aside, Shaw asked for flowers to be planted at the Lithia Park entrance despite current drought conditions. Given the beauty of the park, he suggested posting a statement about APRC’s responsibility for providing open spaces that delighted Ashland residents and visitors. Landt said drought-tolerant plants could also contribute to attractive landscapes.       
Black introduced six projects the Commission had previously reviewed and determined worth additional consideration. Three were listed in the CIP (Capital Improvement Plan). The proposed second dog park off lower Clay Street had potential for funding while Lithia Park sidewalks along Winburn Way and the Butler-Perozzi Fountain were either partially funded or unfunded. New unfunded projects currently included a swing set at Ashland Creek Park, a creek overlook at Ashland Creek Park, and refurbished Helman Elementary School tennis courts. All projects would qualify as achieving goals and objectives adopted by the Commission.    
Project prioritization would assist staff in directing funds for the highest priorities as money became available. Black cautioned against prioritization by cost alone. The list would provide direction in APRC day-to-day workloads, whether searching for grants or locating other funding sources.  
Black distinguished between structural issues requiring immediate attention versus desirable projects that would enhance the parks system. He noted that the Golf Clubhouse was a case in point with regard to an existing structure requiring immediate repairs. Due to economies within an existing Golf project, funding had been found to pay for the repairs.
Commissioner Discussion
Landt asked whether funds could be shifted from one project to another should other structural issues arise. Black explained the complexities of using Food and Beverage (F & B) monies for non-capital repairs, including those at the clubhouse.
Speaking as a member of the Golf Course Subcommittee, Lewis said a recent meeting included a tour of the structural damage at the cluhhouse and a discussion about proposed repair plans. Lewis expressed the opinion that the proposed fix would create ongoing maintenance issues and he suggested further evaluation of the plans. Black noted that capital funds were typically matched with capital projects. A roof would be considered a capital outlay because it added to the value of the building. The only alternative would be to use operating funds for the structural repairs. Black said the budget for operations was limited and spending operational money on the clubhouse could cause unintended budget consequences in the future. Landt spoke to the challenge of exercising restraint when using funds for unplanned expenses.                
Gardiner reiterated the need to reevaluate the proposed remedy for the damaged Golf Clubhouse, with additional options explored. Lewis agreed, advocating for Commission assessment of such a substantial decision. It was agreed that further research was needed and further discussion would be planned for the next available work session.     
Black cited safety issues as a top priority. He noted the difference between desirable projects and imperative projects; about projects that were so costly that smaller projects might be overlooked or remain uncompleted. Dickens suggested that the list should remain flexible depending upon the availability of funds and the addition or subtraction of projects.           
After much discussion, it was agreed that a process for establishing priorities would be helpful. Each unfunded project would be discussed and assigned a number based upon the importance of the project. New projects would be set aside in a “parking lot” until they were deemed ready for inclusion in a list of projects. Black said staff would gather pertinent information about each project to aid the Commission in listing projects in order of suggested importance. The list would be comprised of the seven projects already discussed, with parking lot projects incorporated as deemed appropriate.  
  • Possible Centennial Celebration
Dickens introduced the possibility of a centennial celebration for Lithia Park. He said Lithia Park was originally dedicated in July of 1916, approximately 100 years ago. Prior to that, the land was used for a commercial venture known as Lithia Springs Park. When the business failed, the property was deeded to the City of Ashland and Ashland citizens voted to create a Park Charter and a Park Commission. Park acreage was expanded and Lithia Park as it is known today was developed.        
Dickens said there was no budget for a 100-year celebration but the Ashland Chamber of Commerce expressed interest in assisting with the project. In addition, John Enders [associated with the Enders Shelter in Lithia Park] wanted to participate by crafting a coffee table book about Lithia Park, both past and present. Gardiner suggested consulting with other key community members, including historian Terry Skibby and Lithia Park walks guide coordinator Tom Foster. Gardiner stated that there was value in promoting the past hundred years at a time when the Commission was beginning the process of actively planning for the next 100 years.    
Further discussion included event features for the celebration along with funding options and timelines. Shaw suggested including a 100-mile bike ride as part of the celebration. Lewis talked about using the 2008 Lithia Park centennial celebration photo montage for promoting the event.
  • Business Meeting
Black noted that the October 26, 2015, regular meeting agenda would include a review of the Integrated Pest Management [IPM] plan [later changed to November 23] and an update on the FY 15-16 budget along with an APRC goals review.  
  • Miscellaneous  Business
Gardiner stated that a SurveyMonkey survey used to evaluate the Director was mostly complete. Any additional comments could be emailed to HR Manager Tina Gray for incorporation into the review. The director’s evaluation would be discussed in Executive Session on October 26.
  • Planting of Flowers at the Lithia Park Entrance

Shaw asked for commentary about his suggestion to plant flowers at the Lithia Park entrance. Black said flowers could be planted; however, without protections, deer would eat them.    
Landt said guidelines for park design and maintenance standards were in development; however, in the meantime, judicious use of drought-tolerant plants could showcase the entrance to Lithia Park.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 9:00 p.m.  
Respectfully submitted,
Betsy Manuel

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.   

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