The grassroots movement led by passionate Lake Oswego community members to preserve Cooks Butte Park in its most natural state earned a victory this week.
The three Emery sons, whose parents sold the park to the City in 1975, withdrew their consent for the City to build a public emergency communications facility at the park.
After Save Cooks Butte leaders gathered about 900 petition signatures in an effort to place an initiative on the May 2020 ballot that would protect 11 Lake Oswego parks from development, Les Emery — son of Marjorie and John Emery — and his niece Suzanne attended a Protect LO Natural Parks meeting Nov. 5 at Lake Theater & Cafe and showed solidarity with the Save Cooks Butte community.
Les spoke during the meeting and according to Lake Oswego resident and Save Cooks Butte leader Scott Handley, Emery talked about his parents' love for the park and intent that it remain a natural space. He then informed the community that all three children withdrew their consent.
"I was amazed and relieved at the same time. I wanted to go out and shout to the world that 'Wow, the hard grassroots effort of this community that has been backing me has really paid off,'" Handley said. "It's helped the Emerys reaffirm the values they and their parents wanted for this place."
Mayor Kent Studebaker also notified the public during the Nov. 5 City Council meeting that the Emerys withdrew their consent and therefore the City can't construct a communications tower at Cooks Butte.
This news follows a heated debate between Save Cooks Butte supporters who wanted to preserve the park as a natural space and the City and Clackamas 800 Radio Group (C800) — a conglomerate of 18 different public safety agencies like police and fire departments in Clackamas County — who said Cooks Butte provided the best location to erect a communications tower to improve communications for police, fire and life safety personnel.
But despite the news that a communications facility will not be built at Cooks Butte, Handley said he is still moving forward with the ballot initiative.
He said the ballot initiative is instrumental in the community's ability to hold its elected officials accountable.
"We are proposing to amend the City Charter so that way it's written into basically the City's constitution what can and cannot be done within a natural area," Handley said.
In order to initiate a municipal ballot measure, a person must collect signatures from at least 15% of registered voters in the city. In Lake Oswego, there are just over 29,100 registered voters, so more than 4,300 signatures are required to place the initiative on the May 2020 ballot.
But that doesn't deter Handley and other Cooks Butte supporters.
"Our petition signature rate is over 90%," Handley said. "We expect these signers to sign the petition for (a) ballot initiative."
Handley started collecting signatures from community members who were against a communications facility at Cooks Butte and is confident they will sign the ballot initiative as well.
The initiative would repeal and replace Chapter X in Lake Oswego's City Charter that was created in 1978 to preserve Springbrook Park or other parks "acquired by a bond issue after the effective date of this Chapter if (and only if) the voters specifically designate such other park as subject to this Chapter."
It says an athletic facility, parking lot, road or trail for motorized vehicles cannot be developed on the park's property.
According to Handley, the initiative would expand limitations for 11 natural parks — Bryant Woods Park, Canal Acres, Cooks Butte, Hallinan Woods, Iron Mountain Park, Lamont Springs Natural Area, River Run, Southshore Natural Area, Springbrook Park, Stevens Meadows and Woodmont Nature Park — and development would be limited to only what is necessary for the enjoyment of the natural spaces.
Handley said the initiative would also allow room for the addition of other natural spaces to be included in the charter as they appear.
"This initiative maintains the original integrity of Chapter X while expanding it to protect many other Lake Oswego natural parks from development inconsistent with a natural area," he said.
Handley said signatures will need to be collected by Feb. 1, 2020, to reach the goal of being placed on the May 2020 ballot.
The initiative has been drafted and Handley plans to launch it this November.
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