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LAMP revision bolsters Luscher gardens

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO The Luscher Farm Children’s Garden has been moved under the new LAMP, but it has been expanded to 4,800 square feet. Here, little Clare trims some chard.

The new Luscher Area Master Plan looks a lot different than the first one when it comes to community gardening.

At the public unveiling of the first plan on June 15, many community gardeners made it very clear they didn't like it at all, and they succeeded in getting the attention of the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and project consultant MIG, Inc.

'The community gardens are back where they were and they're expanded,' said Kim Gilmer, director of the city parks and recreation department. 'There are 180 plots there now and as reconfigured on the plan there will be 280 plots.'

Much more will be staying put, too, at Luscher Farm, including the barn, farmhouse, the Clematis garden, and the ever-popular chicken coop. Plus, Oregon Tilth will have its acreage doubled from 6,000 to 12,000 square feet.

'The previous master plan detracted from the synergy around the farm and farmhouse,' Gilmer said. 'A lot of community synergy is created there.'

Making this good situation even better is that two new composting toilets are planned ('No more horrible port-a-potties'), along with room for tool storage and a shade area.

However, LAMP changes for the urban farming operation are not as extensive. Farm supporters criticized the first plan for moving the farm land away from where it has been cultivated for the past seven years to an area where the land slopes much more (estimated at 8 to 30 percent) and often holds too much water, thus making the area much less suitable for growing vegetables.

Still, Gilmer says she hopes changes in LAMP will prove to be more satisfactory to agriculture supporters, besides continuing the unique feeling given by Luscher Farm - that of a farm within a city.

'We're not eliminating or reducing farming,' Gilmer said. 'The upper part of the land (now designated for farming) is steeper, but you can still farm it. You need different erosion-control practices. We've talked to the USDA about this and they told us, 'yes, we can farm it.' We'll be getting more information.'

The farming area has been increased from 12½ to 17 acres. One change from the previous plan is that urban farming has been given 1½ more acres of flat land due to the removal of the trail loop on Rosemont Road.

Gilmer is also confident that adequate water can be provided for the new farming area.

'We've talked to a well contractor and we can pull a line over to irrigate,' she said. 'And the cost will be minimal. It won't be a huge investment.'

Another possibility is that if the farm is zoned inside the Urban Growth Boundary it can receive water from the city of Lake Oswego.

Although the Luscher area has many uses, most people just like to look at it. Gilmer affirmed that the rustic character of the area would be maintained with improvements called for under the revised plan, which include providing a stream corridor, removing invasive species, and creating meadows.

As for the area designated for large public events, it will remain rustic most of the time.

'That area will look like a field most of the year,' Gilmer said. 'We won't have to create a lawn area that has to be maintained.'

Even though the period of public comment has ended, much work remains to be done on LAMP. When the revised plan was brought before the Lake Oswego City Council on July 12, the councilors asked for an analysis of the need for athletic fields (700 Lake Oswego youth now play lacrosse) and possible alternatives for urban agriculture.

Gilmer has already gained more input from Historic Resources Advisory Board and the Sustainability Advisory Board and soon will meet with the Natural Resources Advisory Board.

As for the progress on LAMP so far, Gilmer said, 'We hope these changes address concerns that were raised. People need to realize they're getting more, not less.'

The public can view the updated map on the city website under LAMP. It will be accompanied by a narrative devised by Ryan Stee, parks project manager, which will cover all aspects of the proposed plan.