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Petitioners turn in signatures to protect Gladstone parks through citywide votes

Petitioners on Wednesday turned in more than 1,000 signatures for two park measures that would require public votes if the city ever intends to sell a public park for private development.

PHOTO BY RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Co-chief petitioner Veronica Reichle turns in the signatures for the park measures to Assistant City Administrator Jackie Betz at Gladstone City Hall.Clackamas County’s Election Division still will need to verify that enough registered voters within city limits signed the measure, but petitioners are confident that they gathered more than the 662 signatures required for each petition.

PHOTO BY RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Chief petitioners Veronica Reichle and Chris Lodolini check their stacks of signatures for the park measures at the Happyrock coffee shop in Gladstone. Both measures, if approved, would amend Gladstone’s city charter. One would require a public vote if the City Council wanted to remove a property’s current designation as a park; the other would trigger that citywide vote if city officials proposed to lease or sell one of Gladstone’s 15 parks.

Co-chief petitioner Veronica Reichle said it was a great effort on the part of volunteers to go door-to-door in Gladstone to talk with citizens about park issues. Happyrock Coffee Roasting’s shop downtown was set up as a location where people could reliably go to sign the petition during the past couple of months.

Reichle said a major issue for getting signatures was certain City Council members recently saying publicly that they would be willing to consider selling Gladstone Nature Park to a developer to help pay for the library/City Hall project.

“That was part of our catalyst for sure, but it also was rumors of Cross Park being developed and how the work going on at Dahl Beach has divided the community,” Reichle said.

Chris Lodolini, the second co-chief petitioner, said he was hoping that the parks measures pass in November so that elected city officials would have to go to voters if they wanted to make the case for selling parkland in order to create jobs or economic development.

“My philosophy is that votes tend to solve things and get people engaged,” Lodolini said. “If we don’t have the votes, it’ll lead to continued divisiveness. These measures will open those doors, and force those conversations that need to be had.”

Reichle said that conversation would focus on whether it was worth it to lose parkland in exchange for raising the city’s tax base.

“We live in a beautiful town, and we’re really blessed to have as much green space as we do,” she said. “We are on the verge of being able to develop areas of our community, and we want to be very responsible and smart about the long-term impact on our open spaces."