Panel gets earful on Luscher

by: CLIFF NEWELL Laura Masterson, of 47th Avenue Farm, will be awaiting with great interest for the next version of the Luscher Area Master Plan.

Luscher Farm is like a pie so delicious that it does not have enough slices to satisfy everybody.

But the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Department, along with project consultant MIG, Inc., intends to slice the pie the best it can before the final Luscher Area Master Plan is approved in the fall.

The public showed up to help them make that decision at a June 15 public meeting of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board at the West End Building. MIG unveiled its preliminary master plan, which made drastically different impressions on supporters of farming and gardening and supporters of youth sports and athletic fields.

Following the presentation by MIG's Laurie Matthews and Christine Frank, the commentary came in waves.

Farm and gardening supporters came on strong, and they made it plain they did not like the proposed plan at all. Many claimed that the plan pushes for urbanizing an area meant to remain natural.

'This would be the desecration of a natural gem,' said Ann Christensen. 'The noise and the traffic generated will be unbearable. What will happen with such a high noise level? It will truly be a trail of tears.'

Gardener Adaire Miller said, 'This is my refuge, sanctuary and place of peace. I am totally blown away by the urban feel rather than the rustic feel of this plan.'

Under the new plan, the farming area would be shifted from where it has been cultivated over the past seven years under Laura Masterson, owner of 47th Avenue Farm. Agriculture supporters said such a move would negate all the work that has been done to build up the soil to make it increasingly fertile for farming.

A proposed large open grass field to hold public events (similar to those held for the Lake Oswego Centennial in 2010) was derided by one gardener as 'ridiculous to have such a park for our one dry month of the year.'

Denise Dailey, a member of the Natural Resources Advisory Board, said Luscher Farm would be split in half by the plan, and would not be the agrarian-oriented solution the public seemed to favor in voting on three plans presented last April.

'This farm calls on us to be role models,' she said.

Still, the proposed plan was welcomed with enthusiasm by some in the audience, including many supporters of youth sports.

Bill Taylor asked, 'How much per capita benefit in farming can there be for the community compared to kids who use sports fields? This plan seems like a good compromise.'

'This plan seems like a good mix,' said Marianne Conroy. 'It seems like it's got something for everyone.'

'I support this plan,' said David Rubino. 'There's a great need for sports fields. There's a tremendous shortage. This plan strikes a very good balance.'

On the matter of the number of youth sports fields in Lake Oswego there was stark disagreement. Farm and garden supporters suggested that more sports fields could be available due to the closing of three schools. Others disagreed.

'I think this plan does a good job of balancing needs,' said Mark Beilstein. 'I'm telling you right now that the sports fields are full.'

Meredith Callison spoke on how the lack of sports fields caused her two sports-playing children to come home late many nights.

'There's a big need for sports fields,' said Michael Anders of ASA Softball. 'There's a huge juggling act going on to coordinate games and practices. We're advocates for more field space.'

Changes to the plan are already under way. Ryan Stee, LO parks project manager, said that MIG has already been asked to make adjustments to the plan in response to comments made at the meeting.

Online public comment has been postponed until June 27 and will continue through July 11.

The modified plan will be placed on the LAMP website on June 27.

Key facts about master plan for Luscher Farm

Following are answers to questions about the Luscher Area Master Plan as presented on June 15. They were provided by Kim Gilmer, director of the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Department, and Ryan Stee, parks project manager.

* What is the purpose of the large grassy area in the preliminary plan?

Community space was identified as an important component needed in the master plan due to comments received from the public.

* What percentage of the farming and gardening operations will have to shift?

The new plan will increase the urban farming (CSA) area from 12.5 acres to 15.5 acres and the community garden area from 1.5 acres to 2.5 acres. The area for CSA operations have been modified so 3 acres are left in their current position and the balance relocated to an adjacent parcel. The plan also sought to move the community gardens, but it has already been modified to leave them in basically in the same area they are now.

* Have soil tests been done?

The tests were done many years ago before the city started the community gardens or entered into a partnership with Oregon Tilth.

* Is it possible to use sports fields at three closed schools?

All school athletic fields are now available for use under the City-School Joint Facility Use Agreement. The Lake Oswego School District has not yet indicated that the fields will no longer be available for use by the public. But if they are, new fields will be necessary.

* Has there been an analysis of sports field needs in Lake Oswego?

Yes, an in-depth study of field needs was conducted as part of the 2001 Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Plan, which identified the immediate need to develop five additional multi-purpose fields. So far four have been built. Currently a new analysis is being done to include lacrosse.

* Can sports fields be placed at locations other than Luscher Farm?

A 2002 review by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board sought to identify locations for additional multipurpose athletic fields. It was learned that there are no suitable sites inside the city's urban services boundary to place additional fields. The exception is Woodmont Park, which includes a deed restriction limiting the site to natural area and one unlit soccer field.

To get maximum use from an investment in one field it is best to build an artificial turf field with lights. This allows more year-round play and reduces the need to build additional fields.