Parks Commissioners – Please Listen to the Voice of Reason from Ashland Citizens

Mon. Jan. 28, 7pm, City Council Chambers on E. Main (east of Mountain Ave.)

Hi, my name is Julie Norman.

Commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to make these suggestions:

1.  Honor the primary goal of the Parks Commission.

Your website says: “The goal of the Parks Commission is to provide and promote recreational opportunities and to preserve and maintain public lands.”  Deciding to kill two of the twelve healthy trees in the historic Boy Scout Grove, planted 100 years ago by local Scouts, would conflict with your mission to “preserve and maintain.”

2.  Take the kind offer from your expert garden designer, Mr. Tanaka, when he said “he could work around” the fir trees.

[Larry Cooper confirms this statement was made recently at the site visit.]

3.  Describe the process that Parks and Rec staff went through with the consulting team led by MIG, Inc. and confirm that the garden design was found to be consistent with the guidelines being developed for the Lithia Park Master Plan, as claimed by the Ashland Parks Foundation.

(a) The Ashland Parks Foundation website (https://www.ashland.or.us/News.asp?NewsID=4070) states that their Board has worked with MIG, Inc. (Ashland Park’s and Rec’s team of consultants led by Laurie Matthews) to review the garden design. Mr. Mangin, APF Board Member, is quoted saying, “I wanted to be sure that the Garden dove-tailed with the {Lithia Park Master] Plan, and it does, so we are ready to move ahead with next steps.”

Neither Parks Commissioners nor Staff have supplied any details to substantiate this claim, on their website or at public meetings.  Consequently, the vote on the proposed design should be delayed until citizens see information about the design review with MIG, Inc., as described by Director Mangin.

(b) The only reference to the Lithia Park Master Plan is on the Parks and Rec website, as follows: “The current Japanese Style garden was evaluated during the Lithia Park Master Plan. During design week in June 2018, it was determined that the [Japanese] garden could potentially be redesigned and even expanded without negatively affecting the adjoining park spaces.”

Neither the Parks Commission nor Staff has shared documentation verifying that their proposed design was found to be consistent with this direction from June 2018.  Consequently, the Parks Commission’s vote to approve the current garden design must be delayed until documentation is provided.

3.  Honor the third-party arborist’s Health Assessment.

A third-party arborist was hired to do a health assessment.  He found the two fir trees to be “healthy” and “mature” with “a long life expectancy.” 

With diameters of 4 feet, and heights over 130 feet, these firs are large for their age of 100 years.  The length of the lower limbs is “about 30 feet,” making the width of the dripline “about 60 feet.”

Other health indicators the arborist cited include:

“No cavities or other defects in the wood”

“Base of the tree and root collar appear sound.”

“No decay of structural roots”

“Metabolic condition is “healthy.”

“Growing well and becoming larger each year”.

“Strong wood”

“Soil quality is good”

Rumors that the trees are not healthy are false.

4.  Prevent increased risks to the remaining 10 fir trees from high winds.

The arborist’s report warned that the removal of the fir trees 1 and 2 “could have adverse side effects” on the remaining firs in the Boy Scout Grove. He explained that “edge effects,” where “newly exposed trees that were previously shielded” could suffer from “breakage and tree failure.”

The current wind resilience in the Boy Scout Grove was demonstrated last summer after a period of powerful, 50 mph winds.  JoAnne Eggers and Parks maintenance staff were happy to find only one fallen branch in the entire grove.

5.  Honor the recommendation of the City of Ashland’s Tree Commission, even if you’re not legally required to do so.

The City of Ashland’s Tree Commission inspected the two firs, found them to be healthy, and declared that removing them would violate Commission’s criteria.  If these two firs were on private land, they would not be removed.

Unfortunately Parks Commissioners and Staff claim that the Tree Commission does not have jurisdiction in Lithia Park, and that they are not bound to honor City standards.

Nevertheless, back in 2000, Ashland Parks Commissioners voted to manage the Parks according to the same standards as the City of Ashland.  That vote should be upheld, not skirted.

6.  Acknowledge that these long-lived conifer trees are exactly what we need to meet our City’s official goals of counteracting carbon pollution.

7.  Adopt a win-win, revised design that incorporates the firs.

You can choose the path of bitter, ongoing conflicts with a broad constituency of Ashlanders who love Nature very deeply, or you can choose the path of reasonable compromise and harmony. 

8.  Lastly, avoid conflict that could taint the Garden Renovation Project.

The Garden’s annual maintenance costs are projected to jump from $20,000 to $80,000 per year.  Your project’s kind donor made it clear on June 24th that his pledge to make an annual donation of $60,000 for the increased maintenance will eventually fade away.  So this revenue source is not “permanent” as claimed on the Parks website, making it important to cultivate a feeling of community spirit and good will that will encourage other donors to contribute.

I imagine a vibe of harmony is what your donor’s beloved Beatrice would value the most.

Thank you for listening.

//inserted by Sharon