Council explores $2.6M grant for park improvements

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
The Lebanon City Council in a March 23 work session explored ways to use an “unexpected” $2.6 million grant from the state for accessibility improvements at Cheadle Lake Park.
House District 17 Representative Jami Cate secured the grant through House Bill 5202, which has yet to be signed by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, during the March legislative session, but the city was pressed to submit an application detailing how the money would be used.
In order to take advantage of the grant, city staff considered how it might install Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant restrooms, walkways and parking lots without disrupting future plans for the park, which might require water, sewer and drainage line installation.
“What we don’t want to do is put in something that then requires us in a couple years to dig it all up to put something else in,” City Manager Nancy Brewer said.
Staff looked to the city’s 2007 Cheadle Lake Park Refinement Plan, developed with the Lebanon Community Foundation, to consider future development.
Brewer suggested that the city use $1 million in parks system development charges, as well as apply for two additional grants, from the Land and Water Conservation and the Oregon Recreation and Parks Department, totaling $1.25 million. That additional $2.25 million would allow for the development of an amphitheater with handicapped-accessible parking and up to three full-build baseball diamonds. Proposed use for the $2.6 million grant includes paving part of the gravel parking lot south of the park, installing hard-surface walkways throughout the park and erecting a restroom near its center.
“We really have focused on how to create accessibility in the park and how to create some development that would give us perhaps some revenue options in the park,” Brewer said.
According to Mayor Paul Aziz, the gravel parking lot is one of the most difficult obstacles for wheelchair-bound people.
“This is really going to be positive,” he said. “People with strollers, people with walkers, wheelchairs — it’s just difficult to get around out there, even in that deep, thick grass.”
Councilors Gamael Nassar and Jason Bolen discussed the need for more parking during the Strawberry Festival, where to shoot off fireworks, and the financial benefits of three baseball diamonds.
A 27-acre lot between the soccer fields and the main park is privately owned, but the city has expressed interest in purchasing it should the owner ever choose to sell, Brewer said. To the park’s east rests a 10-acre lot the city plans to purchase this summer.
She added that some elements of the 2007 refinement plan would require future dialogue with the community. Subjects would include the possibility of a community center at the park or transforming the Lebanon Senior Center into such a place.
“I think there are conversations like that we need to have as a community to say where we go with the next phase in terms of seeking additional funding or additional construction,” she said.
Development plans discussed at the work session are not expected to be implemented until at least next year, depending on when and if grant monies are received.
Also present were councilors Michelle Steinhebel, KJ Ullfers, Wayne Dykstra, and city staff Matt Apken, Jason Williams and Ron Whitlatch. Councilor Wayne Rieskamp was absent.
In other business, the council:
♦ Approved a motion to enter into negotiations with the Lebanon Police Department to consider sign-on bonuses in the recruitment of police officers;
♦ Approved a motion allowing Brewer to provide “appreciation bonuses” to city employees who remained on the job during the pandemic. Full-time employees will receive a $1,000 bonus, with part-timers receiving $500 funded from monies given to the City by the Biden Administration in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).