The McLoughlin Neighborhood Association (MNA) offers this letter in response to Dan Holladay's May 31 Community Soapbox regarding the proposed expansion of Oregon City's public works facility into Lower Waterboard Park.
Several of Mr. Holladay's assertions are incorrect, as explained below. Further, Mr. Holladay's letter ignores the MNA's primary objection to the proposed expansion, namely: the development would eliminate six acres of public parkland.
Not just an 'upgrade'
Mr. Holladay describes the proposed project as an "upgrade of the city's existing Public Works Operations Center." However, he fails to mention the fact that the proposal would expand the facility by several acres. That's not just an upgrade; it's a huge expansion.
Expansion, at what cost?
The existing public-works facility backs up to Lower Waterboard Park. The two areas are separated by a sheer basalt cliff, which you can easily see from Center Street. Oregon City's proposal is to expand the public works facility into about six acres of the parkland. Mr. Holladay doesn't mention this at all, but the loss of public parkland is the MNA's primary objection to the proposed project. If the people of Oregon City lose parkland to development, we will never get it back. Also, Oregon City's current Parks & Recreation Master Plan makes clear that Oregon City already doesn't have enough open space or neighborhood parks for its population.
As many Oregon City residents know, Chapter X of the Oregon City Charter says that parkland in Oregon City must remain parkland unless the voters approve a change. But the city is denying that it needs to ask the voters for permission to build on this parkland. The city plans to move ahead with its proposed development no matter what. Incredibly, the city's official position is that the parkland slated for development is not actually parkland, so the city can develop the area as it sees fit. It's a confusing position for the city to take, considering the history of the area, which has been city parkland since 1910 (when the land was purchased for that purpose), and which has been designated as parkland in every Parks & Recreation Master Plan since 1952, including the current one.
A brief history of Lower Waterboard Park
Mr. Holladay writes that "Oregon City's existing Public Works Operations Center has been located at this site, which is in the core of our city in the McLoughlin neighborhood, for over 60 years." He is incorrect.
First of all, in suggesting that the proposed development area is at the "core" of Oregon City, Mr. Holladay is implying that the area is a good central location from which the Public Works Department can serve the needs of Oregon City as a whole. While siting public works at a central location has its merits, neither Lower Waterboard Park nor the existing public works facility is actually centrally located within Oregon City. Rather, the area is on the northwestern edge of Oregon City. Throughout the decades the city limits have expanded so much (south, east and west) that the "core" of Oregon City is on the city's hilltop area, not on the northwestern border. Therefore, a centrally located and more appropriate site for the expansion of the public-works facility would be on the hilltop. This reasoning is consistent with the fact that the Public Works Department previously identified the former Mt. Pleasant School (which is located on the hilltop) as a preferable site, until the site was selected for the proposed police department relocation.
Second, Mr. Holladay offers no evidence for his assertion that the public-works facility has operated in Lower Waterboard Park "for over 60 years." There is no such evidence. Sixty years ago was 1957. While there is evidence that the city stored equipment in one of the Camp Adair buildings in Lower Waterboard Park in 1969 (which was only 48 years ago), there is no evidence that public works was operating there. In fact, the public-works facility was located on Center Street at that time, as it still is. Further, the Lower Waterboard Park area was considered to be public parkland at that time, as it has been since 1910.
For many decades, public works has operated from its Center Street location at the base of a sheer basalt cliff. Even the 1952 Parks Master Plan shows public works at that location. Above the cliff is Lower Waterboard Park, which in turn rises into Waterboard Park's forested natural area. While the city has now fenced off a portion of Lower Waterboard Park where it is storing equipment and supplies, it is disingenuous for Mr. Holladay to claim that public works has operated there "for over 60 years." It's simply not true. The most that can be said is that the city has been storing some equipment, perhaps intermittently, on a relatively small portion of Lower Waterboard Park for 48 years. That's nothing compared to the proposed public-works expansion, which would fence off all of Lower Waterboard Park, block public access, and effectively eliminate six acres of parkland.
Uphill landslides move downhill
In apparent response to community concerns regarding the proposed development's proximity to the active landslide in Waterboard Park, Mr. Holladay writes that "[t]he site is situated on bedrock - not prone to landslides." He misses the point. Everyone agrees that the area slated for development is on solid basalt. That's not the issue. The community's concern is about the uphill landslide, the existence of which is undisputed. That is, given the right conditions, Waterboard Park's uphill landslide could move quickly and cover a portion of the public works facility, likely at a time when we will need it the most. Even the city's own maps, available on the city's website, show the proposed development area is within the landslide's impact zone. The fact that the public works facility is built on top of basalt won't matter much if it's buried under a landslide.
'Dilapidated storage buildings' or unique historic treasures?
Mr. Holladay writes that the two Camp Adair buildings in Lower Waterboard Park are nothing more than "dilapidated storage buildings," and that the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) found the buildings "are not historically significant." Again, Mr. Holladay stretches the truth to its breaking point.
First, the Camp Adair buildings in Lower Waterboard Park are not "dilapidated." They're in good condition for being 75 years old, as the city's own report confirms. While the buildings need cosmetic work and some repairs, they are on solid concrete foundations and have stood the test of time. They are far from a lost cause. For example, although they have been covered up from the outside, the original windows are intact. It would just take a bit of TLC to bring these buildings back into their former glory.
Second, while a SHPO employee, in a March email to city staff, expressed the opinion that the Camp Adair buildings "are not eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places," that is a far cry from what Mr. Holladay claims SHPO said. In fact, nobody at SHPO has expressed the opinion that the Camp Adair buildings "are not historically significant." Further, nobody has even asked to have the Camp Adair buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The MNA has petitioned the city to list the Camp Adair buildings in Oregon City's local historic inventory, and has supplied ample evidence that the buildings satisfy the local historic designation criteria. Unfortunately, the city is refusing to even hold a hearing on the MNA's application.
In addition to misrepresenting SHPO's position, Mr. Holladay's assertion that the Camp Adair buildings "are not historically significant" is undercut by the city's own official statement on the issue. In an April 18th letter regarding the Camp Adair buildings, City Manager Tony Konkol wrote that "The city believes in preservation of our historic resources and we are proud to honor Camp Adair." In that letter and elsewhere, the city has made clear that it recognizes the historic importance of the Camp Adair buildings. That's appropriate, considering Oregon City's Camp Adair buildings are the only two surviving officers' clubs from Oregon's WWII army training cantonment. Further, as historian John Baker has written about Oregon City's Camp Adair buildings, "they are visible symbols of what America can and did do when our survival was threatened as never before." At least 130,000 soldiers trained at Camp Adair during WWII, and many of them used the buildings we now have in Lower Waterboard Park. Of those 130,000 soldiers, over 30,000 became casualties in Europe and the Pacific. Twenty-three thousand were wounded or missing, and seven thousand were killed in action. The Camp Adair buildings in Lower Waterboard Park memorialize the sacrifice that paid for our freedom. They are clearly historically significant, and they should be saved.
Disregarding community concerns
Mr. Holladay writes that the city has "been working with the neighborhood to ensure their issues are addressed." Again, that's a stretch. While city staff previously worked with the public regarding certain design elements of the proposed public works facility (which will become important if the voters ever do approve the proposed expansion into Lower Waterboard Park), the city has steadfastly refused to address the public's concerns regarding the loss of parkland, the need for a public vote, traffic impacts, and landslides. The city is far from "ensuring" that these concerns are addressed. Further, the city is fighting tooth-and-nail in court, and spending tens of thousands of dollars, to keep the public from voting on the proposed development.
We demand a vote!
We've taken the time to prepare this response to Mr. Holladay because the public deserves to know what the proposed public works expansion is really about, and what's really on the line. Every Oregon City voter has the right to vote on this issue.
If the MNA is successful in defending the citizens' right to vote on the public works project, the people should know that the city did everything it could to block that vote. The city knows that Oregon City voters have almost always rejected the loss of parkland when they've been given the chance to vote on it. Given that history, the city knows that the chances of the voters approving the loss of six acres of parkland are remote.
Why are we not being allowed to vote?
Signed, McLoughlin Neighborhood Association members Cameron McCredie, Bill Daniels, Denyse McGriff, James Nicita, Jesse Buss, Rita Mills, James King, Rich Wilhelmi, Patrick Sweeney, Gordon Wilson, Damon Mabee, Rachel Gordon, Jessica Belknap, Janine Offutt, Timothy Caw, Kelly Wilhelmi, Kristen Arnett, Elisabeth Caw, Ryan French, Shane Monares, Jenaya Hoffman, Lonnie Wright, Eamon Minges, Cathie Daniels, Allison Byers, Michael Peck, Ayumi French, Barbara Belknap, William Holden, Kristin Carnes, Carissa Houck, Katie Sommer, Joshua Houck, Kimberly Farris, Trent J. Premore, David Tucker, Akio Collins, Jacob French, Louisa Gonyou, Danielle Cloyd, Tammy J. Wilson, Kip Fletcher, Jeanne A. Premore, Meri Bauder, Kari Petersen, Kevin Farris, Kurt Minges, Michael Petersen, Kathy Roth, William L. Gonyou, Kurt Sommer, Francesca Anton, Kevin Farris, Matt Holden, José Ramirez Solano, Christopher Hileman, Brice Cloyd, Andrew Hancock, Allison Minges, Wendell Belknap, Lisa Haines, Josh Habre, Owen J. Premore, Sylvia Erichsen and Jonathan Bauder.