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New plan reflects public desire to promote both sports fields, urban agriculture

“Balance” was the key word in preparing the new Luscher Area Master Plan. Kim Gilmer is confident this has been achieved.

The plan was handed over to the Lake Oswego City Council for review on Tuesday night, and it represents more than a year of effort to please as many citizens as possible.

“We’ve received over 2,500 public comments since July of last year,” said Gilmer, director of the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Department. “We’ve tried to balance all priorities.”

That was not easy.

The first plan placed sports fields right up next to the urban farming operation at Luscher Farm, with some fields replacing prime farmland. This did not go over big with the fervent supporters of Luscher Farm.

On the other side, a report by The Sports Management Group, commissioned by the parks and recreation department, showed that there is a shortage of playing fields in this city, largely due to the massive increase of youth playing lacrosse and flag football.

In lacrosse alone the report showed a boom in popularity that is three times the national average. The report proposed building three large multipurpose athletic fields on the Luscher Farm property.

Yet the support for urban agriculture is strong, too. A previous survey showed 77 percent of the public supported farming, and 44 percent of those surveyed said it was “very important” to keep the park looking like a farm.

Gilmer believes those issues have been addressed and resolved in the new version of the plan.

“There was a big controversy,” Gilmer said. “We definitely have a need for more multipurpose fields and have few areas where we can put them. They need to be put at Luscher. We couldn’t ignore that. It was very clear what direction the community wanted to go.”

The response to this conflict was a series of nine meetings between Gilmer and the heads of all the advisory boards affected by LAMP — parks and recreation, historic resources, sustainability and natural resources. Gilmer believes the collaboration resulted in a plan that resolves the issues as well as possible.

“The big difference is that the ballfields are now located side by side,” she said. “They’ll be put lower on the ground, so the parking lot will be less visible. We got the ballfields off the agriculture land. The community gardens have been left alone and more room will be provided for them. There will also be more space for urban agriculture.”

The next step will be for the city council to review and make suggestions on the new LAMP plan. This will be followed by a period allowing further public commentary about the plan.

The revised plan reveals the great potential of Luscher Farm in so many areas: preserving natural areas, history, urban agriculture, recreation, walking trails and education.

“Our goal is to have an education center,” Gilmer said. “It’s not just about the land; it’s about how the program will change over time.”

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