Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Community Spaces" Listening Session, Oct. 28

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

Four members of the Project Advisory Committee were present, along with 9 members of the public. We were joined by Allie, the manager for the City's dog off-leash program, and Bob Downing, central services manager for the parks (he was at all of the sessions, along with Elizabeth and Sarah from Parks).

Dog Off-Leash Area (DOLA)

Some feeling that the dog park isn't big enough to accommodate training of dogs.

Proposed expansion of the community garden to the east doesn't affect the dog park. BUT, the east side is where the DOLA boundary is not clear. East side of the community garden is often thought to be, or used as, part of the dog park.

Why can't the DOLA have a bags dispenser for doggie waste? There was a lot of discussion - people want this. This is a budgeting issue. To provide this for the entire parks system would be $100,000 a year. People bring "bags of bags" (reused grocery, newspaper, etc. bags) but this is a problem, because they come loose, blow around and turn into trash. Maybe there could be a better "stash spot" for the bags of bags.

"Doggie septic tank" was brought up as an idea. There are issues of technical feasibility with this.

Dogs run across 88th Ave. This is especially an issue with 88th slated to become a "bike boulevard."

Regarding fencing, participants in this discussion liked best the idea of a partial fence, along the streets only. One participant suggested a 20-foot "hook" inward from the street.


Again, it was hard to keep this conversation completely separate from the question of what we do with the soccer fields, but we tried to focus on the "community space" aspect of the question.

Overall, participants expressed strong concerns with moving the gazebo. Current location is close to parking and to proposed new restrooms and picnic area. Proposed new location in map A is less convenient. With new location, there is concern that noise will come "down the hill" to residences to the south of the park (although band shell may mitigate this). Wheelchair access will be better in current location. New location will be worse for sun in the eyes of audience.

Majority of participants rejected the idea that "we will move the gazebo, but keep it as close to parking, restrooms, etc. as possible," which was proposed as a compromise position. They did not favor moving the gazebo at all. One participant said moving the gazebo would "just be a waste."

There were also some concerns about how the scenario in map A will accommodate concerts. The symphony uses soccer fields. How would it work for them to play on the synthetic field? You wouldn't be able to bring food. One participant said, "synthetic fields are for sports, not for the people."

The conversation about the gazebo repeatedly veered into areas that have more to do with park management than design. Noise control in the park is a huge issue for neighbors, especially on the quieter 88th Avenue side. One neighbor described some noise levels as "unbearable." One neighbor sometimes hears events in the park from his house on 86th Ave. People at the bottom of the park say they hear "everything." The Revolution Church event over Labor Day is hugely unpopular - people do not like sitting in their homes and hearing they are going to go to hell. People understood (reluctantly, after much debate) that the City cannot discriminate against park users based on content.

Trying to report noise violations means you get the runaround. Portland Parks & Rec issues permits, but BDS enforces noise violations. There is only one noise control officer for the entire city. Try to report a violation, and each bureau refers you to the other. (Perhaps there are some ideas here for future areas of organization and advocacy for Friends of Lents Park.)

Participants were generally open to the idea of improvements to the gazebo that might result in better noise control. Maybe there could also be rule changes that put limits on amplified music, not eliminate it entirely.

"Grand Entrance"

A few long-term residents weighed in on the idea to put in a grand staircase at the SE corner. There were stairs before, by the tennis courts. They were taken out because there were too many problems. Bikers and skaters used the stairs for tricks, grinding, etc.

Keep the evergreen trees at the SE corner.

Some participants did not like the choice of the SE corner for the "grand entrance." (This was the location favored by respondents to the previous round of public involvement.) Some think the Holgate side is a more natural choice. One participant asked, so is this a done deal because of the previous responses? (Probably, but say what you think on your comment form! If the PAC gets overwhelming input to revisit this decision, it may happen.)

Kids' Play Area

Some participants favored putting the covered picnic area next to the play area, for birthday parties.

Participants were generally OK with the idea of a kids' basketball court going in next to the play area.

One participant said speed limits should be lowered around the park because of children playing. While this is outside the scope of this master plan, it has been done before, for example, in Spokane. The state controls speed limits, so you can write your legislator. There are other people in the neighborhood concerned about this issue - check out the "i love lents" listserve on Yahoogroups.

Synthetic Turf for Fields

While not formally part of the agenda for this discussion, the subject of the synthetic fields came up and some important information was shared.

Cost to put in a synthetic field is around $800,000. Yearly maintenance costs then go down to almost nothing, because synthetic turf doesn't need much maintenance. Maintenance fees for grass fields: at Delta park (high-intensity use) can run about $25,000 a year; here in Lents Park it runs around $7,000 a year. Over the long run (according to Bob Downing) synthetic fields are cheaper.

One participant asked why the City can afford $800,000 for a synthetic field, but can't afford a bag dispenser for the dog park.

One participant said his sons had played on synthetic turf and didn't like the feel of it. Playground improvements are more important than the money it would take to put in a synthetic field.

It was acknowledged that synthetic materials have improved a lot over the past few years and are now much more "natural" feeling.


One participant with 51 years in the neighborhood and multiple past service on committees said that this master plan is "the first positive thing the CIty has ever done for Lents Park." There are lots of promises, but the City never follows through.

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