A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Chaos elsewhere, city park planning here

Written January 7th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The East Thornton Lake Natural Area in October 2017: The new master plan has ideas for the acreage.

While everybody is trying to cope with the fallout of the chaotic events in D.C., the machinery of local government grinds away on all the mundane tasks that must be done. In Albany’s case that includes planning for the future of the city’s parks.

On Wednesday night I tore myself away from coverage of the stupid and criminal mob action at the Capitol to take in a virtual meeting of the Albany Parks and Recreation Commission. At issue was a new master plan for parks, which has been in the works for about two years.

The commission unanimously approved the new plan and sent it on with a recommendation that the city council accept it too.

The plan outlines lots of improvements at various parks but recognizes that the main challenge is to maintain what’s already there. The discussion made this clear: Whatever improvements or enhancements are mentioned, they won’t take place unless there’s money, and there’s no assurance that any money will be found.

The plan includes a five-year “action plan” for capital improvements estimated to total about $8 million.

One of the projects is to develop a “neighborhood and nature park” at the East Thornton Lake Natural Area off North Albany Road. That might cost around $5.7 million and it’s the biggest item in the action plan.

Albany bought the 27-acre former farm in 2009 for $2.25 million from a Salem developer in order to keep him from building a residential subdivision on the land, which fronts the south side of East Thornton Lake. The acreage remains undeveloped.

The five-year plan calls for the city to “sell or transfer” two pieces. One is a small acreage near North Pointe in North Albany. The other is Hazelwood Park off Southwest Queen Avenue.

Divestment of 3-acre Hazelwood Park was also mentioned in the parks plan from 2006. In 2017, then Parks Director Ed Hodney told me the city tried to sell it but could not find a buyer. The site is sandwiched between two electric substations. It has no facilities to speak of but contains a grove of mature oaks.

In another part of the new plan, the text suggests a series of new trails to make it “possible to explore the city and its neighborhoods more fully by foot or bike.” A graphic accompanying this suggestion (page 3-15 if you want to look it up) seems to place these possible connections along major streets.

All of this planning may seem fanciful in the face of the city’s budget reality. Major cost cutting and service reductions are expected in the 2021-23 biennium.

The plan says Albany will get 9,000 new inhabitants over the next 10 years. Some park capacity may be added with funding from the city’s systems development charge on new construction.

There also is talk of asking the city council to enact a new “utility fee” to help support city services, including mainly public safety and also others including parks. But whether the council goes for that idea won’t be known until the fee is presented for a decision.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in parks, go look up the master plan on cityofalbany.net. And then hope that some of it can be carried out while you’re still around. (hh)

The plan calls for the city to divest itself of Hazelwood Park, shown in 2017.

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13 responses to “Chaos elsewhere, city park planning here”

  1. Stephen says:

    The police officer who was in critical condition due to injuries received in the riot has died.

    That makes five (5) deaths.

    Stay classy Republicans.

  2. James Engel says:

    O. K., besides the monthly storm water “TAX” now on our utilities bill we may face some other utility tax in the future. Way to go frivolous City Council. Ya spent $83K on some silly metal trees so why not squeezy the tax payers for most anything you want. Hey, maybe we ought to storm the Council Chambers next week!

    • hj.anony1 says:

      Extra security to the council chambers! J.E. is coming dressed in his MAGA(t) gear and overly large Gadsden flag.

  3. hj.anony1 says:

    Sorry (not sorry) for commenting twice on this one but I’m struck by your last sentence HH.

    “And then hope that some of it can be carried out while you’re still around.”

    Defeatism is not a good look on you.

  4. centrist says:

    Reporting on local issues, priceless.

  5. Jacobin Hanschlatter says:

    Albany City parks are a privilege, not a right. Albany City parks serve a tiny minority of the citizenry (perhaps the pool does better). Albany’s problems with City parks are a First World, “White People’s Problem.” Whether Albany City parks stand, fall apart or remain static is not really important compared to many others. Perhaps the author should write about and be as concerned with the homeless, the hungry and the underfed children. Maybe after addressing those problems…then….some where WAY down the line of “problems, we could concern oursleves as to the number of swing sets and pickle-ball courts are available. All the nattering about improved park amenities and widening streets to accommodate the 1.3% of Albanians who bicycle seems silly and insignificant. Perhaps a respected scion of the Albany information class ought to shift focus, addressing issues of substance.

  6. CHEZZ says:

    Having worked in Parks & Rec over 15 years, here in Oregon, read this.
    Parks are viable areas for the population, not only for their beauty, but a living green space set aside for the people. There is so much good happening in these parks; memories made, partaking of meals, flying a kite, concerts, family gatherings. I lived on the other side of these amenities. Parks lost and forgotten, folks caught in poor choices, or choices not made by themselves, in terrible circumstances. Gunshots at night, tears by day. Or parks just not planned for. We have had a very strong parks system for many years in Albany, by delivering viable programs, activities, classes, and folks having opportunity and ability to enjoy these parks. So, look around Albany. Your parks may become a place unwelcomed.

  7. Mike quinn says:

    What does the capital protests have to do with park space I Albany. Out of all people Hasso you know how Albany roped into buying the Thornton lake property and everyone on council fell for the feel good buying of park land when the developing company has no uniform building. Ask Floyd Collins. We had this discussion alot

  8. Mike quinn says:

    Hasso not sure about your site twice now it has mixed my words with your own


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