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0 Roving Reporter | "City Council held a joint workshop session with the Parks Board..." | by Jeanette Larson

Photo by Sally Mitchell
City Council held a joint workshop session with the Parks Board (Tuesday, April 26, 2016) to provide direction on developing a plan for the newly purchased property on Broadway (referred to by many as the Bent Oaks). The Parks Board has not started work beyond a brief discussion wherein it was clear that some board members want a park with social enhancements (picnic tables, BBQ, space for play, etc.) while others on the board are interested in a more natural place that preserves the rookery. One member indicated that since taxpayers paid for the park they should have the right to use it to throw balls around and play.

All of the parks board members who were there spoke (I think one person was absent). Council was reminded that there are federal guidelines that must be adhered to with regard to the rookery and federally protected birds. Concern was also expressed about safety with the water so close and two busy streets. Several citizens who were in the audience also spoke, primarily about the need to look at the unique properties of this area and create a park that plays to those properties rather than being just like every other park. Letters had been submitted in advance from two citizens.

When Council spoke Mayor Wax reminded everyone that the primary reason the city purchased the property was to protect it, the birds, and the iconic oaks, not simply to buy another park. The city has already contracted for a fence to be erected before Memorial Day to discourage improper use (like driving on the property or having parties).

Mayor Wax recommended that the entrance be moved to Maple St. with a small parking lot. Entry from Broadway would be blocked by the fencing. He indicated opposition to BBQ pits, playscapes, and other social enhancements that would negatively impact the rookery. Other council people indicated that the trees need to be protected although there needs to be some avenues for people to use the park. Councilman Villa reminded everyone that the park is not just for the birders and mentioned having some picnic area at the front of the property with views of the bay. Councilman Rios suggested that the rookery could be off limits for the 6 months of nesting but accessible at other times. Viewing areas so that people can see the birds safely (and, I added, cleanly--you don't want to get under the trees). He indicated that there is certainly a solution that can address the various issues. Barbara Gurtner suggested limiting access to the area at times and keeping the area as natural as possible, possibly even restoring habitat. Fencing or natural landscaping could be used to keep people back from the rookery area.

In summary, the decisions that have been made are to block entry from Broadway, move the entry to Maple Street, and protect the rookery. A long range plan will be developed, with the help of experts, to address the issues, including access to the park, protect and patrol the rookery, provide some educational features (like interpretive signage and/or outdoor teaching area), provide viewing areas and limited seating (including possibly a few picnic tables but no BBQ pits), and other issues.

The Park Board was also charged with looking at the three houses on the property and making recommendations as to keeping, moving, or demolishing them. One might be available to the Wings Rescue Center temporarily for use as a staging facility for rescued birds and storage of rescue equipment and supplies. A shed on the property is no good (the floor is falling through) and will be removed.

We were reminded that there is no rush to do anything (and not much money) so we can take our time and develop a good plan.

- Jeanette Larson

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