Public process should include all citizens

It may be inconvenient to slow down on Luscher Farm plans, but it might be wise

Talks about a possible redesign at Luscher Farm have raised the hackles of farm fans there, who say they weren't included as stakeholders when a city contractor planned for the farm's new look this summer.

We think if the city of Lake Oswego intends to redesign Luscher Farm, those plans should include everyone.

This process, billed as open and public, has been hasty at best. Discussion has been limited to selected groups, most of whom have been vocal about their needs and were in turn tapped to participate.

It's our position that the city of Lake Oswego should not redesign Luscher Farm in a single summer and should not include in that process only those people who yelled loudest for the opportunity.

It is true that Luscher Farm has been slated for field development since 1997 and that a master plan for its future involved extensive civic input that now drives the redesign effort. Yet it's also true that things have changed since 1997, even city leaders concede that point. That's why they worked hard to address new needs at Luscher and include dog park users in these latest talks. But they haven't included people who participate in the Community Supported Agriculture program or other Luscher Farm Programs. The CSA came on board at Luscher after the 1997 master plan was created.

We think those people deserve a voice.

We're not saying that the city of Lake Oswego should favor their needs over fields or dogs. We're simply saying that everyone deserves a voice in a civic process, even if some input is inconvenient.

The CSA has been an enormous success for Lake Oswego and its surrounding communities. We don't think the program should be so casually tossed aside just months after the city accepted national awards for its advancements. The only motivation to do so is because the CSA's success was unplanned - certainly problematic for the single-track plan now on the table - but maybe not such a terrible thing in a city that is increasingly more concerned with sustainability.

Is the leadership of Lake Oswego really convinced that if it plows over the rural character of Luscher Farm tomorrow, build quality tennis courts and, finally, athletic fields, it would truly be giving today's Lake Oswego citizens what they want?

We are not.

We all know that siting new athletic fields has been an arduous, tiresome process, and that Luscher Farm would be a convenient solution to that problem. But sometimes leadership is about making tough choices. In this case, it appears the city of Lake Oswego has merely deferred a difficult decision to a hasty public process so that the ultimate solution is the one that makes the least amount of noise.

Luscher Farm is a solitary rural asset in a community that will one day be much denser, built higher and spread farther to the south than it does now. What happens in its redesign truly matters to the future of Lake Oswego's open space and to the future of the urban food supply. Talks about the farm's fate should also prompt discussion about whether the development of parks on top of urban agricultural land is really what our civic leaders had in mind when they first started zoning farmland as a priority.

Yes, this complex problem of how to balance field use with farms and dogs is a pickle. And no doubt, closer inquiry would stall field construction even longer than it has. But what if this community doesn't take a closer look at whether the nine-year-old master plan for Luscher Farm really serves today's Lake Oswego? To us, the master plan looks a bit like a square peg rushing toward a round hole.

Somebody, really, ought to slow it down.