Park plan shows desire for community hubs
When West Linn voters approved a general obligation bond nearly a month ago, it was a win for the city's Parks and Recreation department.
Parks, after all, were one of the three targets for funding from a bond that is projected to raise as much as $20 million. And the timing for an influx of funds is apt, as the City is also in the process of evaluating and adopting a new Parks, Recreation and Open Space master plan.
Staff presented a draft of the 2018 plan — which was last updated in 2007 — at a City Council work session Monday, June 4. The presentation came on the heels of the planning commission's unanimous vote to recommend approval of the plan during a May 16 public hearing — though that vote did come with a significant caveat regarding "local satellite community centers."
The plan is intended to lay out the department's goals for the next 20 years, but is generally revisited every 10 years. That process began last year when the City issued a community survey that generated nearly 2,000 responses and informed the planning that was to come.
As outlined by Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester, Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Ken Warner and consultant Cindy Mendoza of MIG, Inc., the draft plan featured seven primary goals ranging from re-envisioning West Linn's water experience to creating year-round "social hubs," re-imagining indoor recreation opportunities and improving connectivity and accessibility throughout the parks system.
"Finding the balance between what people say they want and what's important to the city is what we considered in this plan," Mendoza said.
In total, the plan outlines around $25.3 million in work at existing parks and $48 million for land acquisition, planning and development of new parks.
"What this tells us is some priorities need to be set to determine what to move forward," Mendoza said.
The most significant long-term projects proposed in the plan are an indoor multipurpose recreation center and a new waterfront park.
"What we realize is that the smaller (community) centers are functioning very well in terms of meeting neighborhood needs, but they are really community gathering spaces," Mendoza said. "They are not able to provide the larger scale recreation needs we heard straight from the community that are so important here. They want more fitness and health opportunities — a gymnasium, for example."
The new recreation center, which Worcester and Warner have said could go on a parcel near Tanner Creek Park, would be built in several phases. The idea would be to start small and test the community's willingness to pay for recreation services, then expand the center as deemed fit — possibly even going as far as creating an aquatic facility.
But an outdoor waterfront park — which could include plazas, a swimming dock, a boat launch and gathering spaces — stands as the far more feasible option for aquatic recreation in the near future. Two possible sites for that park are the 39-acre former Blue Heron Paper property on Volpp Street — which is now owned by Clackamas County Water Environment Services (WES) — and a property owned by West Linn Paper in the same area. The City also hopes to enhance the water experience at nearly all of its riverfront parks, including Willamette Park and Maddax Woods.
The council was largely supportive of the draft plan, though a more thorough evaluation will take place during a June 18 meeting.
"I think the waterfront center could go a long ways to being that community hub and entry place for all recreation," Mayor Russ Axelrod said.
Axelrod, however, expressed concerns with the significant costs outlined in the proposal for a recreation center. He said it should be clear that the City was simply documenting what it would take to build the center as opposed to making a firm commitment.
"I think we need to sort of drive that home," he said.
Axelrod also appeared to agree with the planning commission, which in its final vote stated that the plan should include "importance and budgetary support for local satellite community centers, specifically Sunset Fire Hall, Bolton Fire Station and Robinwood Station."
"These are important facilities to our sub-neighborhood scale," Axelrod said. "The vision is that with a little support, maybe not from the core parks and recreation fund but other entities, let's find a way to make these vital for communities. … We understand they're not a central community center, but they serve other needs."
"They don't need to be city-run, they can be nonprofit-run," City Councilor Teri Cummings said.
City Councilor Bob Martin said that, on the whole, the plan should reflect the community's clear desire to gather in public spaces.
"People are asking for us to make it possible to get together," Martin said. "We've got to take this seriously, we've got to not just give it lip service."