LO has $30 million for parks. Now comes the hard part.
The Lake Oswego Parks & Natural Resources Advisory Board wrapped up public input on the prioritization of its capital improvement project (CIP) list last week with one final meeting ahead of submitting its priorities to the City Council at a meeting July 16.
After voters approved the $30 million parks bond in May, the park board worked tirelessly to gain feedback from local residents on what projects they would like to see funded. That included talking to more than 400 people at the LO Farmers' Market, hundreds more giving input at the LO Public Library and via an online survey, as well as a community forum June 20 at the LO Operations and Maintenance building.
"We're totally excited about having the pleasure and challenge of prioritizing projects and then allocating these funds," said co-chair Bill Gordon. "This is an opportunity we get only about every 20 years or so."
The board met for nearly four and a half hours Monday, June 24, discussing everything from the new bond and potential funding from system development charges (SDC) over the next seven years to the need for more athletic fields and how Parks & Recreation fits into the discussion around the new Lake Oswego School District pool proposed at Lakeridge Middle School.
"It was a really energizing meeting with a lot of different perspectives coming out, so that was a good process," said Amy Waterbury, park board member. "We had more than 1,300 people give input throughout this process so that's really good and really valuable."
After reviewing all the input the board had gleaned from local residents, the top four projects the public wants to see funded include a community pool, a recreation center, fields for athletic use and trails.
"All of that citizen input was reasonably consistent with the statistically valid phone survey from last fall where people talked about their interest in a swimming pool as well," Gordon said.
Last week, LOSD announced it would be issuing a request for proposal to build a competitive 50-meter pool at Lakeridge Middle School. The district had come to the table with the City Council earlier this year to discuss a potential partnership in building a competition pool with community warm-water pool for recreation and swim lessons attached to it, but no movement on that front has occurred publicly since then.
Following the June 24 meeting and discussion, the park board drafted a letter to the City Council outlining the overwhelming support for a community pool they saw during their public input period and asking the council to consider coming to the table to solidify a partnership with the district.
"We think now is the perfect time for City Council to consider whether the City should approach LOSD and the School Board with a proposition centered around the City taking over the responsibility of siting and building both the competitive pool and warm water community pool," the letter stated. "LOSD would contribute its monies to the project. There are many details to be considered and, of course, negotiations, but at this point our request of City Council is to think about it."
But the park board expressed reservations with the Lakeridge Middle School site.
Specifically, the letter noted that if the pool project moves forward at Lakeridge Middle School, the impact would cause the loss of five athletic fields for soccer, softball and baseball uses. With athletic fields also being so high on the list of projects to be funded with the $30 million — and there already being a shortage of athletic fields in Lake Oswego — the board suggested there may be an alternative to placing it at Lakeridge Middle School by pairing the project with the recreation center and siting it at the LO Public Golf Course, which would be reconfigured into a 9-hole course per an update given to the City Council by Parks Director Ivan Anderholm at the joint City Council-LOSD meeting.
According to the letter, this move would prevent the loss of any other athletic fields and allow Parks & Rec to continue building new fields on other properties such as the Rassehk property adjacent to Luscher Farm, as well as keep fields at Lakeridge Middle School once the renovation of the property is complete at the end of summer 2020.
"We know we're struggling to maintain and keep and 18-hole course; it's not the highest demand facility, and that's a cost to us," Bullard said. "It's a balancing act. It's give and take, when you get something you gotta give up something else. There's a lot of opportunity here to coordinate and work together, but I would anticipate that City Council will be very cautious of the overall operating cost and management (of the pool) by the City."
Bullard, Gordon and the rest of the park board expressed a huge appreciation for all the feedback they received during their public input period, as it was helpful in the board's discussions of what direction they should take in order to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
"This is a generational opportunity, we have so much support and we know people are enthusiastic about their Parks & Rec facilities," Bullard said. "We look forward to doing something with this money we can all look back on and be proud."
The park board suggested that if the City Council approves moving forward with funding for a community pool it would likely knock off a few items on the CIP list with lower prioritization, but SDC funding of approximately $7 million over the next six years could allow the parks department to find funding for those projects in due time. The CIP list includes 20 projects totalling approximately $60.3 million.
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