After presenting the findings of a parks survey to members of the Parks Advisory Board on Thursday, Feb. 25, members of the committees offered their own feedback.
(Keizertimes covered the results of the survey in its March 3 edition, it can be found at keizertimes.com)
The survey and assessment of Keizer’s parks facilities found a deficit of usable park space in sizable swaths of the city. Some of those areas have a park, such as Palma Ceia and Northridge parks, but the parks themselves do not lend themselves to recreational activities other than being outdoors.
It led members of the committee to ask whether it would be more fruitful for the city to remove the park designation and pursue other interests on the sites.
“It seems like we’re using those parks to inflate our overall acreage number of what we call a park. Should we convert those into more usable space, and would it save us any money,” asked Dylan Juran, a member of the parks advisory board.
Keizer Parks Supervisor Robert Johnson replied that changing the designation wouldn’t have a noticeable impact on the city’s finances.
“The properties still have to be maintained at some level,” Johnson said.
Matt Lawyer, another member of the committee suggested there were still improvements that could be made to the parks that would enhance their value.
“If we put a couple of benches in those parks and made it more aesthetically pleasing, there would be more ways to utilize them as parks,” Lawyer said.
Committee member David Louden said the city would have to be cautious if it tried to reclassify a park.
“Parks were put where developers couldn’t build, which is why we have a lot of parks that are pretty useless. But, those spaces need to remain parks because they are part of the city’s collection of system development charges (SDCs),” Louden said. SDCs are payments to the city that assist with infrastructure installation and continued maintenance.
Cindy Mendoza, a spokesperson for Portland-based MIG, the firm consulting on the project, noted that SDCs would likely need to be increased to support booming improvement within Keizer parks.
Among the improvements desired in the survey were more trails connecting neighborhoods to parks and parks themselves. Mendoza noted that even trails within a single park are often lacking.
“Most [existing] paths don’t connect to picnic tables, parking lots or bathroom facilities,” Mendoza said.
Paths connecting parks, and one long-simmering project in particular, got the support of committee member Tanya Hamilton. She endorsed the idea of a horizontal park that travels along Claggett Creek and could eventually be connected to the Kroc Center in Salem.
“I think that we’re going to be wearing masks and doing a lot of outdoor activities. Connectivity should be a priority. I really love the idea of it connecting to the Kroc center. It’s a safe way for kids to go back and forth,” Hamilton said.
Doing so would require the collaboration of multiple private property owners, the city and numerous other regional and state authorities. It might even trigger federal environmental agencies. Lawyer called it a “cross jurisdictional nightmare,” but still supports the idea if it ever becomes feasible.