4/22/2014 1:38:00 PM City back to drawing board on Creekside park
By John Griffith
The City of Sisters will go back to the drawing board with its plans to renovate the overnight campground at Creekside Park. At last Thursday's planning commission meeting, the City formally pulled its application to renovate the campground, a proposal which had been slated to go back to the Sisters Planning Commission for more review.
Last week, the Oregon Parks and Recreation District (OPRD), which is responsible for enforcing deed restrictions on the park, gave the City written authorization to continue to operate the park as-is, but requiring a master plan for any further development. OPRD asked the City to "refrain from further development or addition of structures until we've approved a master plan and can compare any possible proposals with a master plan."
Due to that requirement, City Manager Andrew Gorayeb told The Nugget, "We are withdrawing the application to rehab the campground. Moving forward, we need to develop a comprehensive master plan for the campground and submit it to OPRD for review and approval."
The City will essentially start from scratch.
According to Gorayeb, the plan will likely include, but not be limited to:
Tree management plan;
Improvement plan (short- and long-term);
Other public amenities plan;
Landscape plan."We will develop the plan through a process of public outreach and engagement starting with the parks board, then the planning commission, and then city council. Once we get buy-in and finalization, we can go to OPRD for review and approval."
A two-phase plan to renovate the campground was to have been implemented this spring. Plans called for more full-hook-up sites for RVs, and paving and planting grass. The proposal was controversial. Plans to remove a significant number of trees - mostly in the second phase - drew considerable fire from some citizens. Citizens also expressed concern over the lack of opportunities for public input on the plan.
With the City required to go back to the drawing board, there will now be multiple opportunities for public input on any new master plan.
Earlier in the month OPRD took formal jurisdiction over the campground. Gorayeb had told the council at the time that the campground would likely need to be closed for this season and not reopened until a publicly vetted and OPRD-approved park master plan was completed.
That, however, did not come to pass, as OPRD opted to allow the City to continue operating the park as it has for the past 24 years.
The planning commission also currently serves as the Urban Forestry Board (UFB) and convened in that role after its regular meeting. In the wake of controversy over tree-cutting at Creekside, the forestry board's activities are receiving more attention than usual.
Several citizens spoke during the visitor communications portion of the UFB meeting. Their input related to both the UFB and to the recent challenges over the cutting of trees - mostly junipers - in the Creekside Park Campground.
The current definition of a significant tree in the Sisters code refers to individual trees with a trunk diameter of eight inches or greater measured four and one half feet above the ground. The code also calls out ponderosas specifically.
With a booklet in hand, Ed Protas said, "This is a publication of the U.S. Forest Service ... and in here it defines the benefits of trees, and it defines them by size. ... in this entire book it does not talk about species. The benefit comes from the size of the tree, and the key finding is that large trees provide a greater benefit than small trees. In the city council meeting last week ... there was a discussion, and the statement was made (by City staff) that junipers were not significant trees."
Protas also suggested that the planning commission-based UFB be replaced with a "professional" UFB that includes people with forestry experience and that have a passion for trees.
Community Development Director Pauline Hardie shared that she was in fact about to engage an experienced consultant to help her define the make-up of an effective UFB. At the urging of commission chair Alan Holzman, Hardie agreed to have a public forum on the rationale for a revitalized UFB before the concept was launched.