Lake Oswego Parks & Rec spreads across 'a city in transition'
Lake Oswego's Parks & Recreation Department is just a few weeks away from completing its move out of the Palisades building, ushering in a transition period in which most of the department's programming will be held at new locations throughout the city.
The Lake Oswego School District, which closed the former Palisades Elementary School as a cost-saving measure during the recession, has been leasing the building to the City for the past three years as a headquarters for Parks & Rec.
But a series of remodeling and construction projects have now been scheduled across the school district, thanks to a $187 million bond measure approved by voters in 2017, so LOSD officials informed the City earlier this year that they would need to begin using Palisades again in July.
Most of the Parks & Rec office staff have already moved out, settling in at either the municipal golf course clubhouse or the farmhouse at Luscher Farm. Now, the focus has turned to relocating the activities and program spaces, and it's created a flurry of activity at Palisades.
"(If you visited), you'd see a lot of boxes and things in the hallway," says Recreation Superintendent Jan Wirtz. "We've moved quite a bit of our office materials, but we're still closing out some programming there and we have some trainings that are happening."
The timing of the move works out well for activities; thanks to consistent sunny summer weather, some of the classes can move to outdoor locations like Waluga Park. Most of the rest, such as dance classes, are being relocated to the Adult Community Center (505 G Ave.).
"A lot of adult fitness is going over, and then at the ACC there was room downstairs and they've remodeled it into more of a studio to store fitness equipment," Wirtz says. "Our exercise bikes that we had at Palisades are moving there."
The downstairs space — rechristened the Sequoia Room — has also been outfitted with a wooden dance floor and full-wall mirrors. In addition, it has an added storage space to hold specialized equipment for yoga and other classes.
"All those pieces need to have a home close to where their instructor is going to be," says ACC Manager Ann Adrian.
The Sequoia Room already served as a fitness area, Adrian says, but City facilities workers have spent the past several weeks modifying it to handle more dedicated uses and serve as a classroom environment. The last of the work was finished up earlier this month, and classes began on Monday.
ACC staff had to shuffle some of the building's existing classes around during construction to make sure nobody was disturbed by the noise, Adrian says, and now the ACC will need to adjust to hosting a wave of new programs. Parking at the facility is getting tight, she adds, but otherwise the transition is going smoothly.
"It's been wonderful, because we've seen a lot of people we haven't seen before, so they're finding out more about us and some of our other services," Adrian says. "The synergy is definitely there."
Twenty Parks & Rec classes are being moved to the ACC, bringing the total at the site to 45. That's in addition to the ACC's own programming, so the center's hours are expanding to include evenings and Saturdays to help fit everything in.
The second major new destination for Parks programming is the Bryant campus at Lakeridge Junior High (4750 Jean Road), which will host all of the summer camp programs that were formerly held at Palisades, including Radical Robotics and the Missoula Children's Theatre.
In a way, the LOSD and Parks & Rec are trading spaces. Bryant is available because the building is scheduled to be torn down and rebuilt; school staff and functions are clearing out now that the school year is over, leaving the building empty for the summer. But the teardown does mean that Parks & Rec will need to find another home for summer camps next year.
"Hopefully we can kind of hopscotch around," Wirtz says. "We won't ever not have summer camps. I just think with parents and young children in particular, it's a little bit more convenient at schools."
In future years, some of the camps might be held outdoors in city parks, Wirtz says, or at the department's third major relocation site: Christ Church Episcopal Parish (1060 Chandler Road).
The Rev. Jeremy Lucas says the church's leadership felt that some of its spaces were underutilized on weekdays and Saturdays, so they began reaching out to the City to seek out new activity partnerships earlier this year, and Wirtz was quick to recognize the potential of the church as a home for Parks & Rec programs.
"We have a lot of spaces that are empty every day except Sunday," Lucas says. "They get used for some programs like our Youth Group that meets a couple times a week, but by and large we have a lot of space."
As part of the partnership agreement, the department is funding a series of upgrades to the church's undercroft, the large room on the level below the main parish hall, which will become the new home for the Parks & Rec Teen Lounge. The lounge operates during the school year to provide a supervised place for students to spend time after school.
Lighting, paint and carpeting are all slated to be upgraded or replaced, and the first round of renovations has already been completed, including the installation of new power outlets and electrical infrastructure to support the Teen Lounge computer lab. The City is also working with the church's internet provider to increase the available bandwidth.
Most of the Teen Lounge couches, TVs and amenities like an air hockey table will move to Christ Church Episcopal once the carpeting is installed. An opening celebration is expected to be held toward the end of August. When finished, the new Teen Lounge should have room for up to 100 students.
Two Parks & Rec staffers will work out of a permanent office in the church to provide onsite supervision for the lounge and other Parks & Rec programming. According to Lucas, the church also has classroom spaces that can be used for art and music activities.
The church will also host several youth-focused programming spaces beginning in late August and continuing through the school year, including the popular indoor playground program. It will operate in the church's Cummins Hall, right next to a courtyard that holds the outdoor playground for the church's existing preschool programs.
The smaller Maginnis Chapel, which was recently upgraded with a hardwood floor, will also be used starting in the fall to host a number of programs — such as ballroom dancing and Tai Chi — that either don't run during the summer or take place in parks when there's sunny weather.
Bringing in so many new programs has certainly solved the problem of underutilization, Lucas says — in fact, the church staff now have to be careful to plan everything six months in advance to avoid scheduling conflicts.
"We've been talking about it for months," Lucas says, "and I'm so excited that it's finally all coming together. We're excited to welcome the community of Lake Oswego into our space."
The church signed an initial three-year agreement with Parks & Rec that could be extended, but the department is taking a short-term approach at the moment, Wirtz says, because so much of the City's spaces are in flux right now and a long-term home for the department hasn't been finalized.
Wirtz says the department is also looking at additional partnerships with local churches and the school district — almost anywhere with a gymnasium and other open spaces is under consideration.
"But (the district) is in the same position we are, where they're under construction," Wirtz says. "We're kind of a city in transition right now. We'll continue those conversations, but for now, we're very very pleased to be able to have what we have."
For more information about Parks & Rec, including links to Summer Camp registration and the Summer Activity Guide, go to www.ci.oswego.or.us/parksrec.
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