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Woodmont Park neighbors, and other community members, express disapproval for restroom, other new features

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL  - Community members gathered during a Woodmont Natural Park Design meeting Jan. 29 to discuss modifications to the park's development plan.If one thing was clear after the Woodmont Natural Park Design meeting Jan. 29 — or even after public comment during a December City Council meeting regarding development at Woodmont — it's that community members are strongly against the construction of a bathroom facility at the park.

The project has been on hold since December, when the City Council voted to reject a bid that would have awarded a $1.42 million construction contract to Benchmark Contracting for construction of Woodmont Natural Park. The council instructed the Lake Oswego Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Advisory Board to revisit the project during a council meeting in early January.

Parks and Recreation Director Ivan Anderholm, Steven Tuttle with Mackenzie, an architecture firm and others — including members of the parks board — met with neighborhood associations and concerned citizens Jan. 29 to go through the original Woodmont master plan and the current development plan, and discuss possible modifications to the previously proposed design.

"We heard testimony from the community, from the neighborhood association, the neighborhood, about things they didn't like and things they didn't want in the project … so we want to find out what exactly those things are," Anderholm said at the beginning of the meeting.

The Woodmont property was deeded to the City by the Meyer family in the 1990s.

"Donald Meyer, the son of Adolphus and Clara Meyer, cared for the property until his passing in 1997, maintaining a garden as well as admiring the re-naturalization that had taken place on his land," the master plan reads. "Prior to his death, Mr. Meyer formed a deal with the city of Lake Oswego to sell his family's property upon his passing, under the condition that it would become a city park."

Since then, the park has remained largely unchanged, other than rogue transient trails that were created over time — which have been proposed to be upgraded or realigned with the new plan — and mowed firebreaks by the parks department's maintenance team. It currently consists of forested areas, wetlands and meadows — and many invasive trees and non-native plants.

While the deed is restrictive and does not allow for the construction of structures other than a bathroom facility on the property, the City decided it was time for the park to have a facelift.

The design process for the development of Woodmont began in 2015 and Anderholm said the project goals were guided by the deed, the Parks Plan 2025 — which provides additional recreational options for citizens, play areas, trails, parks and an investment in natural areas and open spaces — and other project goals developed with the Planning Advisory Committee like maintaining the park's natural setting and making sure it's usable in all four seasons.

The Woodmont master plan was initiated in 2015 and approved in 2017.

The proposed plan included parking stalls — Clackamas County requires Atwater Road be widened and resurfaced in front of the park, which would in turn provide space for about six parking stalls — a restroom located near the parking area, flexible open space to play catch or other field games, natural open space consistent with what the park is like now, removal of invasive trees (which will be replaced by an estimated 250 or more new native trees), improved trails and an interactive play area that uses logs, boulders and other material mostly found onsite.

"We are trying to support a more native landscape that's more ecologically diverse and sustainable for this site," Tuttle said.

After the bid was rejected in December and then reopened in early January, the parks board was asked to go through a public process to refine the designs.

During the meeting, table groups of community members gave feedback in five areas: trails and pathways, restrooms, habitat restoration, trees and shrubs, the interactive natural area, and open lawn and natural grass areas.

While the overall consensus was against a restroom facility mainly due to safety concerns, some citizens said that one stall would be fine so people don't use the park itself as a restroom.

Other community members wondered if a restroom facility could be built later if needed.

Anderholm said it could, but it would be more costly.

While the community opted to remove a permanent restroom and the associated utilities from the design plan, Anderholm said there is a possibility that a port-a-potty could be placed at the park if enough community members complain about people using the park as a restroom, for example.

A majority of people were happy with the year-round decomposed granite trail plan (the deed does not allow hard surfaces like concrete for pathways), with the exception of eliminating the double loops in two areas to allow for more privacy for those residing on the park's perimeter.

Some community members were concerned with a crossing where the wetland is because it's often flooded by water. Anderholm said building a bridge is not an option and would open up a whole new set of complications. He said it could be managed by placing signs at the crossing notifying people that the trail is closed due to high water levels. He reminded folks that the upgraded trail in the plan will not be damaged by flooding.

Community members also expressed concerns about permanent irrigation being installed at the park.

After discussion, people generally supported irrigation to help the new native trees and plants get established if the only permanent installation was in the front of the park — once the new greenery is established, it would be turned off — and in the green area that would be available for field games. Anderholm said it would be permanent in the lawn area because the City wouldn't be able to operate that area for its intended use if there was no permanent irrigation. Some folks wanted the mowed area to be expanded, while others wanted it reduced in size. Anderholm suggested they leave the size as is and if the parks department sees a demand, they can look at expanding the mowed area. The developed lawn area would transition to native grass anyway, and if expansion was needed, the City could mow the long grass down along the edge and make a larger developed lawn area.

There were mixed feelings about the interactive play area for kids. Several community members supported it as long as it looked more natural than contrived, and used no outside materials other than additional boulders for seating if needed.

People also asked about a water fountain, dog stations and garbage cans.

Anderholm said that without a restroom, the water fountain would be considered a structure by itself and therefore is not allowed by the deed. He did say, however, that a dog station and garbage can would be fine.

The architecture firm will now modify the plan before the visual plan will be presented at the next parks board meeting Feb. 19. If approved, a new contract will be brought before the City Council in April.

"I think it (the meeting) went great. I think we came out of it with some clear direction and objectives," Anderholm said. "We're just happy we will be able to move forward on it."

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