The Douglas County Planning Commission Thursday voted in favor of new amendments to the Parks & Recreational Element of its Comprehensive Plan.
The amendments are based largely on the 2016 Parks Master Plan, approved by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners last year. The board of commissioners will also have the final say on the Comprehensive Plan amendments.
The Parks Master Plan generated tremendous controversy last year. Among the chief concerns voiced by critics was the fear that the plan might allow for parks to be logged. That concern was raised again last night, based chiefly on the absence of any mention of logging policy in the parks amendments to the Comprehensive Plan.
What they do include are new references to the Parks Master Plan, and mini plans for Chief Miwaleta, River Forks and Whistler’s Bend parks that will make any future changes to those parks easier. An amendment also references providing better access for disabled park users.
Two members of the public spoke about the amendments Thursday. Both mentioned logging concerns. Both also complained about the planning process, saying it was rushed, and that regional Planning Advisory Committees didn’t vote on the amendments, often because too few members turned up to create a quorum.
“For the life of me, I don’t see what the rush is to get this through,” said John Hunter of Tenmile.
He asked planning commissioners to delay voting until they could refer the amendments back to the regional PACs for the committee votes.
Kat Stone of Roseburg said she liked the amendments overall and praised planner Ricky Hoffman’s work on them. However, she thought it would be too easy to make major renovations to the three parks with mini plans, even to the extent of adding off-road vehicle trails, without giving the public a say beforehand.
She also felt the planning was rushed, and said she had been told that anything regarding logging of the parks would be included in the plan.
It’s not, but Planning Director Keith Cubic told the commissioners that parks logging would be an operational question for the parks department and wouldn’t be the kind of thing referenced in the comprehensive plan.
Planning Commissioner Victoria Hawks expressed discomfort with the lack of any mention of park logging policy in the plan amendments.
She said she worries about things that are left unsaid.
“That always is a concern to me if things are left off,” she said.
Logging in the parks is a big deal she said.
“When we do things like this it looks like that’s overlooked. I understand that it’s not, but it feels like it,” Hawks said.
However, Hawks joined the other commissioners in voting 4-0 in favor of the amendments. New Planning Commissioner Sidney Schuyler abstained.
Commissioner George Seonbuchner asked Cubic how much time the planning department had put into the project. Cubic said he didn’t have an exact figure, but it was a substantial allocation of resources. The amendments were prepared over the course of several months, and the Parks Master Plan before it took about six months, he said.