Our new Lake Oswego City Council asked for citizen input on Feb. 12, and patiently devoted four hours to listening to more than 70 citizens and accepting additional written comments. They deserve credit for really wanting to know what was on the community’s mind.

What did they hear? They heard over and over that we love our parks and recreation here in Lake Oswego. It became emotional at times. An expectant mother shared her need to connect with other young mothers at toddler times. A care provider wife pleaded to continue the Alzheimer’s patient respite program at the adult community center. Gardeners spoke of their connection to the land at Luscher Farm. A concerned father shared the importance of recreational sports teams for his teens outside of the highly competitive school athletics. And others spoke of their daily walks on our pathways.

Why did so many people spend their entire evening at city hall? There is a rumor that our new council will cut programs, sell parks and reduce parks staff. It was clear ... that is not what our neighbors want.

Did everyone agree about issues? Several individuals remain opposed to our sensitive lands ordinance, our tree policies and our water project. But the interesting testimony was their secondary comment. One gentleman was opposed to the sensitive lands, but thought the adult community center essential. Another wanted to review the water project, but gardens regularly at Luscher Farm. It was clear our community doesn’t agree about everything. But, we did agree on the need for a strong park and recreation program in Lake Oswego.

Our park data are truly amazing. (A total of) 279,607 individuals participated in recreation activities, programs and events last year. Each citizen connects with the department eight times a year. More than 1,215,478 hours were spent in such activities; 26,842 volunteer hours were devoted to our park and recreation activities. The Parks and Recreation Department is the tie that binds our community together.

Our citizens not only spent their evening testifying about parks, they also participate in park activities and are willing to pay for parks. We have overwhelmingly passed two bond measures to purchase parks and open space and to develop facilities.

We are approaching budget committee hearings where the council will provide guidance. I know that the council heard an overwhelming love for parks and recreation. We have an unbelievable park participation level and we are willing to pay for these facilities and services. Our council and budget committee should protect the park services that tie our community together.

Debbie Freepons Craig is a Lake Oswego resident and is previous park commission chairwoman, has served on various park planning committees, has been chairwoman of park bond measures, is past president of Three Rivers Land Conservancy and is a regular user of Lake Oswego parks.

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