Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Active Recreation" Listening Session, Oct. 25

These are Kathleen's personal notes. I have tried to group similar topics together, but otherwise have followed the order in which the conversation happened.

The topic of this listening session was "Active Recreation," which included the soccer fields, Walker Stadium, the football field, and the proposed new skate park.

About half the Project Advisory Committee was present, and a total of 21 members of the public participated at various times. The public participation was pretty evenly divided between "sports" people and "neighborhood" people, and included representatives of virtually all the different "sports" constituencies that use the park. There was a representative from the baseball players who use Walker Stadium, from the Spanish-speaking soccer players who use the central fields, and from Lents Little League. There were also several local skaters who had a background in skate park design.

More sports in the park?

Neighbors present talked about their desire for the park not to be turned into a "sports complex." This was an interesting perception, since the skate park is the only new sports feature proposed to be added. Neither of the maps currently under consideration would add MORE soccer, football or baseball, and both would restrict some areas available for pickup sports such as volleyball.

So we talked some about the perception that the park is being targeted for lots more sports to be added. This is coming primarily from the proposal to go to synthetic turf in Walker Stadium and for one soccer field in Map A. Neighbors pointed out that synthetic turf means fewer rainouts, which means more games actually get played, even if the scheduling is the same on paper. Synthetic fields are also lighted, which means play can continue until later in the night. Restricting permitted hours could help. Walker Stadium is currently permitted until 11 pm. The synthetic central field could be restricted to 10 pm.


One of the biggest issues for neighbors with sports in the park was associated parking impacts. One neighbor said that moving Lents Little League to the park had really affected parking on the west side. Some ideas were shared to get sports participants to take transit instead of drive. Maybe offer some incentives for coming on MAX? This is more feasible for soccer than baseball, where people are hauling a lot of gear.

One participant had an idea to increase parking: along the SW side of the park, take out the concrete barrier and convert parallel parking spots to angle parking.

Another participant suggested turning the north side football field into a parking lot. (OK, that one's unlikely to fly, but we were brainstorming!)

"Skate spot"

A lot of the discussion about the skate spot centered on its location. Much of the concerns about liveability involve how close the skate spot would be to residences.

In both maps, the skate spot would be located along Holgate, next to the northmost of the Lents Little League fields. From the last round of public comment, this was the location that was most favored by respondents out of the choices given, all of which were on the park's outer edge. But this location wasn't favored by a huge margin, indicating there is no clear neighborhood consensus in favor of this spot.

Some said the Holgate location would be best, because Holgate street is already loud. Others pointed out the danger of fly balls going into the skate spot.

Other possible location discussed for the skate spot. (Note, none of these were on the previous maps, so weren't included in the previous round of public comments. If you like these ideas, say so on your comment form!)

* In the SE bowl area, next to the playground.

* On map "A," to the immediate right of the synthetic soccer field, curving around existing trees.

* In the concrete area between the south edge of Walker Stadium and the jogging path (might require removal of 2 or 3 trees to be feasible)

Generally, the idea of moving the skate spot more towards the middle of the park was popular. But there are safety concerns with this. A more central location is harder to monitor and may be more likely to be used inappropriately.

The participants who have experience designing and building skate parks had some interesting perspectives to add. According to them, it is quite feasible to design a skate park around existing trees. The skate spot should be designed and constructed properly, or it won't get used. Good design will do a lot to minimize other uses the neighborhood might not want. A lot can be done to mitigate sound. Trees help. Concrete is the best material for mitigating sound - wood is much louder. They recommend covering the skate spot because of rain, but this would be a budgetary consideration.

Soccer fields

The treatment of the central soccer fields is the big difference between maps A and B. For purposes of this conversation, we tried to focus just on the "sports" aspects of this issue, although other matters are inextricably linked, such as location of the gazebo.

Overall, the idea of re-programming one central field from soccer to natural plantings (as shown in map A) was very popular. A majority of participants, including the soccer player representative, really liked this idea.

It was pointed out that map B doesn't really cut down to one soccer field. The open space that is available "first come first served" will probably also get used for soccer.

The soccer and baseball representatives don't like synthetic turf a whole lot for playing on, but didn't argue strongly against it.

There was some support for the idea of exploring if soccer can be moved from the park to the fields at the former Marshall High School. Portland Parks doesn't control this site, and this master plan can't mandate this change.

Another idea was whether soccer can be played on the outfields of the baseball fields. (I think the reference here was to the Lents Little League fields.)

There was clarification as to when soccer gets played. Primary season is August through November, which overlaps with baseball season. All grass fields are closed down December, January and beginning of February. In late February we have lacrosse and rugby, then the soccer secondary season starts around April.

Other sports issues

With the basketball court being moved in both maps, some are concerned there is not enough capacity for volleyball.

The plans to improve Walker Stadium are already done. Once a master plan map is finalized, the Project Advisory Committee will prioritize how the work gets done.

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