This story has been updated from its original version.
While the November ballot boasted two competing Lake Oswego park measures that claimed to protect and preserve the city's natural spaces and parks, Measure 3-568 put forth by Love LO Parks — a grassroots movement led by Lake Oswego community members to prevent 15 parks from any future development — was approved by voters Tuesday, Nov. 2.
According to the Oregon Secretary of State's unofficial results, the city's measure turned out 4,987 votes in favor, or 55%, while the Love LO Parks Measure 3-568 tallied 5,549 votes in favor, or 62%, as of Wednesday morning.
"We're proud our community recognizes the value of strong protections to conserve our cherished natural areas and that we raised this important issue to the attention of our community," Scott Handley, LoveLOParks grassroots organizer, said in a press release Wednesday. "This not only is a win for our community, it is a win for the abundant wildlife that calls these natural habitats home."
After Love LO Parks received enough signatures on an initiative petition to place a measure that would amend the city's charter on the November 2021 ballot, the city decided to present a competing measure.
While both measures had similar intentions of protecting the city's parks, Love LO Parks claims its measure protects the parks in their most natural element, while the city said the competing measure clarifies some of the wording in the Love LO Parks measure that could present future concerns.
The Love LO Parks Measure 3-568 would repeal and replace the original Chapter 10 in the charter, which 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."
The charter language said an athletic facility, parking lot, road or trail for motorized vehicles could not be developed at any of the parks covered by that chapter.
"The City of Lake Oswego shall not cut (or allow any person to cut) any tree in Springbrook Park for the purpose of facilitating the construction or development of any Athletic Facility or any parking lot, road, or trail for motorized vehicles," the charter read.
The Love LO Parks initiative would expand those limitations to cover 14 additional parks and natural areas — Bryant Woods Park, Canal Acres, Cooks Butte, Glenmorrie Greenway, Cornell Natural Area, Hallinan Woods, Iron Mountain Park, Kerr Open Space, Lamont Springs Natural Area, River Run, Southshore Natural Area, Springbrook Park, Stevens Meadows, Waluga Park-West and Woodmont Nature Park — and development would be limited to only what is necessary for the enjoyment of the natural spaces.
The initiative would also allow room for the addition of other natural spaces to be included in the charter as they appear.
The city's Measure 3-575 would also amend Chapter 10 of the city charter to state that "the City of Lake Oswego shall manage the Natural Areas to preserve and enhance the biological, hydrological, ecological and environmental functions and promote a healthy ecosystem. The city shall also manage Natural Areas in a way that protects their scenic and aesthetic qualities and provides access to nature for the public, consistent with their environmental values and ecological function."
The amended charter would prohibit several actions at the parks, including construction of athletic facilities, commercial logging, the addition of new public streets or roads and the installation of telecommunications facilities. Activities allowed by the city's proposed charter language include various maintenance, renovation, stewardship and mitigation efforts.
There has been some back and forth between the two entities as to what that language would allow and would not allow.
The city claims the Love LO Parks measure could affect restoration activities, renovation and replacement of existing facilities — like water storage or utility infrastructure — in the listed areas. It could also affect the city's ability to provide ADA access and address parking needs for visitors as well as "the ability to develop, revise, adopt and implement master plans for each of these natural areas."
Citizens behind the Love LO Parks measure say it would not prevent restoration work or the city from maintaining the parks.
"The City of Lake Oswego shall be allowed to maintain (or allow any person to maintain) a Nature Preserve for the purposes of ecological restoration that provides a safe and healthy natural area that is accessible for public enjoyment, provides a healthy habitat for wildlife, eliminates invasive species, restores native species and mitigates fire hazards," the Love LO Parks charter amendment read. "The City of Lake Oswego shall be allowed to maintain (or allow any person to maintain) any existing facility or existing structure, or any existing parking lot, road or trail for motorized vehicles in a Nature Preserve constructed before (date initiative is ratified) that is above ground as long as that facility or structure, or parking lot, road or trail for motorized vehicles is not altered in any manner that would further impair or be inconsistent with the natural conditions of a Nature Preserve. The City of Lake Oswego shall be allowed to implement (or allow any person to implement) a park master plan for a Nature Preserve that was adopted before (date initiative is ratified)."
The problem, according to the city, is the future impact this charter amendment would have. The citizen's initiative would prohibit the addition of paved pathways but would support crushed gravel surfaces. But there were contrasting views on whether crushed gravel provided sufficient accessibility.
"Aside from the trail, it's the notion of providing access through parking for the mobility-challenged and others when appropriate given the specific, local conditions," Lake Oswego Mayor Joe Buck told Pamplin Media Group in a prior interview. "These are prime examples of the unintended consequences that come from applying blanket rules to a wide variety of parks and conditions."
After viewing the election results, Buck expressed gratitude toward Love LO Parks for raising the issue of protecting the city's natural spaces.
"Now, we must commit to continuing to put that dialogue into action, improving upon it, and working together on the multitude of community topics framing our city life with unity and a neighborly respect," Buck said in a press release sent by the city. "Even if at times we disagree, we can all find truth in the sincere love we share for the community and our shared desire to continue to make the community an exceptional place to live, work and play."
The Love LO Parks measure also includes a requirement of voter approval for park projects that are outside the parameters laid out in the amended charter. The city has said this would be costly and more time-consuming than the master planning process that is currently in place.
"We're thankful for every volunteer, donor and petition signer who made Measure 3-568 a reality," Handley said. "Everyone involved with Love LO Parks should be proud of their participation in this significant accomplishment to give our community this choice and the protection of our parks."
The city will eventually share more information on the charter amendment process.
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