Swim park closure idea irks local folks

A proposal to close the Lake Grove Swim Park to make way for construction on the city's new $100 million sewer line is raising hackles in the Lake Grove area, where residents say the Lake Oswego School District is asking for feedback on the idea after working quietly on it for months.

Additionally, the park's deed, which designates the land for recreational use only, may put a snag in plans.

The city of Lake Oswego is proposing to close the Lake Grove Swim Park beginning Sept. 15 to allow the city to use it as a staging area for construction on the Lake Oswego Sewer Interceptor.

LOIS, as the pipe is called, is a one-of-a-kind floating sewer pipe that will carry effluent from two-thirds of the homes in Lake Oswego through Oswego Lake east to a treatment plant on the Willamette River.

It replaces an undersized pipe now on pilings in Oswego Lake, built there in the 1960s. The city of Lake Oswego was fined $54,000 by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in February 2007 for repeated overflows from attached sewer lines, which stemmed from capacity problems in the pipe.

Now, the city of Lake Oswego is under order to replace the pipe by 2010 as part of a legal agreement tied to the overflow fines. Construction on the job is set to begin this fall and the city is required to submit final plans to DEQ by Sept. 1.

The deal with the school district would grant the city an easement and would not earn the district any money; however, district officials are asking that the city return the park to the district in better shape than when it is received. Superintendent Bill Korach estimates those improvements to be about $50,000.

Many local people are just learning about the plan after reports in the Lake Oswego Review and Loaded Orygun, a local political blog, and changes at the swim park.

'Everyone I asked, not one person knew anything about it and as they're finding out they're just livid,' said Tia Ross, a Lake Oswego resident who recently learned about the proposed park closure.

Ross said she worries the lack of transparency about the swim park closure will reflect on the city and hurt the sewer project. She believes it is the school board that is responsible for getting the word out.

Frustrated residents are already circulating a petition.

'It angers me that they thought they could just do this without any public process,' she said.

Korach said the district was relying on meetings held by the city to get the word out and planning its own meetings in July and August.

'The board has given me the authority to have those discussions with the city with the assumption that this could take place,' said Korach, who has been in talks with the city for the last few months. 'I gave them the go ahead to do the site analysis, which resulted in them marking five maple trees.'

The tree marking, which indicates the plan to remove the trees to make way for a temporary road, raised concern among community members who wondered when the city had made a deal with the school district.

Removal of the trees is already under way. An application to remove them under the tree code has been made.

But school district officials say they have not yet agreed to let the city use the swim park and a meeting to gather public input on the idea is still five days away.

The district will host its first meeting on the topic on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Lake Oswego Junior High School Cafeteria.

The meeting Tuesday night will be followed by a Wednesday morning school board meeting, which has the swim park easement on the agenda.

Additionally, the district faces a potentially sticky legal conflict: The deed that transferred the swim park from the Oregon Iron and Steel Company in 1954 specifies that the park should only be used for recreation. It also allows anyone with swim rights to file an injunction to stop an alternate use.

The district hasn't taken a position either way, approaching the issue from the perspective that the project is in the best interest of the entire Lake Oswego community.

'If we were to move forward we would hope that we would have community support,' said Korach.

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