Love LO Parks measure will appear on November ballot

Clara Howell’s LO Review article (posted online July 2nd), “Love LO Parks measure will appear on the November ballot,” is a disappointing mischaracterization of our citizen’s initiative that proposes to limit development in our natural parks. It’s shocking that Ms. Howell chose not to celebrate our local grassroots accomplishment more earnestly and with more accurate detail about the initiative’s objectives. On December 11, 2019, Ms. Howell bluntly told us that our citizen initiative petition wasn’t newsworthy, stating “I think our next story would likely be done [down] the road, focused on if it passes/you get enough signatures.” Lake Oswego hasn’t seen a local citizen initiative petition effort in decades. Now that citizens have accomplished this significant milestone, under immense challenges of a pandemic, she has written an article that is not representative of the facts, is riddled with inaccuracies, and promotes falsehoods and misleading statements by some community leaders, and the City, who have continually refused to embrace the facts from the beginning that thousands of citizens’ aspire to enact sensible development limitations. And, we were not given the opportunity to respond to these false and baseless claims.

Our charter amendment is by citizens for citizens. It is the result of decades of City actions that fail to protect these natural areas adequately as natural habitats. Some prefer the City to have the flexibility to transform these designated natural habitats into developed parks. We believe they should remain as healthy and vibrant natural habitats free from human development.

In October 2019, we solicited feedback from citizens and community leaders across Lake Oswego — some chose to participate, others chose to discount our efforts. Our goal was specific and clear: to limit development inconsistent with maintaining these natural areas as natural habitats.

Once our initiative became official, some community leaders who perform so much wonderful park volunteer and stewardship work, told us to abandon our efforts, called our development limitations unnecessary, and said that the city’s current park planning processes were adequate. These assertions occurred without meeting with us to discuss the proposed text and merits of our efforts.

These community leaders are now pushing an alternative measure because they believe our citizen-led initiative is an implied criticism of their decades-long stewardship. That is untrue and has never been our intention. Our concern has always been finding legal protections to prevent further exploits to develop our designated natural parks, like the multiple attempts on Cooks Butte and recent development of Woodmont Nature Park, among others. We are concerned the City and Parks and Recreation Department will continue finding reasons to develop these natural habitats. Once developed, these beautiful areas with abundant wildlife are gone forever.

Since we want the best protections for these natural areas, we reached out and met on several occasions with these community leaders to seek common ground. While our initiative petition’s text could not be changed because we were already collecting petition signatures, we had a couple of options if discussions identified substantive and meaningful additions to our proposed charter amendment:

  • withdraw our initiative petition in favor of improved text and restart petition signature collection efforts, or
  • endorse a competing measure with improved text

These discussions resulted in no substantiative additions nor common ground. These community leaders and the city have been insistent on a wholesale and unnecessary rewrite of our legally and community vetted text. Their proposed rewrite minimizes our development limitations under the auspices of preservation activities. Make no mistake, this is an attempt to confuse the voter. To be clear, our initiative text was written deliberately, with precision and intent on limiting development and in no way prevents the wonderful preservation activities performed by many City affiliated groups. Their proposed referendum draft weakens the legal protections and intent that our citizens initiative seeks to achieve and weakens protections that have proven to protect Springbrook Park — it is disingenuous to our community.

Ms. Howell’s article is irresponsible reporting and disrespectful to the intelligence of the Lake Oswego community, the 4,700+ citizens who’ve read our proposed Charter amendment text and signed the initiative’s petition, and over a hundred volunteers who’ve worked tirelessly and donated to these efforts over the last 18 months, through a pandemic, to inform and educate our entire community about our charter amendment that limits new development in Lake Oswego’s natural parks that is inconsistent with maintaining them as natural habitats. Don’t be fooled by these tactics. Please be informed and seek the facts.

Just The Facts

Howell: “The [existing] charter language said an athletic facility, parking lot, road or trail for motorized vehicles could be developed at any of the parks covered by that chapter.”
LoveLOParks: This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. The existing charter prohibits an athletic facility, parking lot, road or trail for motorized vehicles at Springbrook Park. Chapter X of the City Charter was enacted by voters in 1978 because the city desired to bulldoze and transform this natural park into a major athletic facility, aka a developed park.

Howell: “According to the city’s June 15 staff report, the Love LO Parks measure could affect restoration activities, renovation and replacement of existing facilities — like water storage or utility infrastructure — in the listed areas.”
LoveLOParks: Our charter amendment specifically allows for existing facilities or structures to be maintained. Restoration, renovation, and replacement are maintenance activities.

Howell: “It also could affect the city’s ability to provide ADA access and address parking needs for visitors as well as “the ability to develop, revise, adopt and implement master plans for each of these natural areas.”
LoveLOParks: First and foremost, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that will be honored. While our charter amendment prohibits asphalt and concrete hardscape surfaces, decomposed granite and/or tightly packed crushed gravel is allowed, is a suitable alternative that meets ADA requirements, and is used broadly in national, state, and city natural areas across the county. Such materials make for durable natural trails suitable for wheelchairs, strollers, and bicycles. Our amendment also provides for “boardwalks” that would ensure “access to the public” to particularly fragile natural areas.

Additionally, the existing charter for Springbrook Park, the largest designated natural park, already prohibits parking lots. Our amendment retained this requirement since all 15 of these natural parks have access to suitable parking for their size and geography.

Howell: Wagner said a group of citizens were involved when the petition first formed in 2019, and a handful in that group who worked on restoration efforts in the natural areas saw problems with the wording…”
LoveLOParks: 100% false. No citizens who were involved in crafting the initiative petition’s text are in Ms. Wagner’s group of citizens that she alludes. Those individuals (and yes, we know them by name) chose to ignore our offer to review and contribute, discounted our efforts, and surfaced only once the initiative became official (names, dates, and email correspondence confirm). Since we’ve corresponded with Ms. Wagner on several occasions, it’s surprising she’s chosen to mislead citizens with this false narrative that the proposed Charter amendment’s development limitations prevent preservation and restoration activities — quite the opposite.

The proposed Charter amendment encourages these activities and the intent is clear when reviewing the proposed amendment in total:

The City of Lake Oswego shall be allowed to maintain (or allow any person to maintain) a Nature Preserve for the purposes of ecological restoration that provides a safe and healthy natural area that is accessible for public enjoyment, provides a healthy habitat for wildlife, eliminates invasive species, restores native species, and mitigates fire hazards

Howell: “Lake Oswego City Manager Martha Bennett said one concern with the Love LO Parks measure is that if the city wants to update the master plan for a park or natural area in the future, “the Love LO Parks measure would send us to the ballot,” Bennett said. “Everytime we want to update a master plan we’d have to go to the voters.”
LoveLOParks: Our charter amendment does not prohibit master planning. It specially allows pre-existing adopted master plans to be implemented that may include development our charter would prohibit. This does not mean the city is prohibited from developing new master plans. Nor does it mean master plans must be brought to the community for a vote. It means new master plans must abide by our charter amendment limitations, any deed covenants and restrictions, and city ordinances — just like Springbrook Park.