The spirit of collaboration and cooperation filled the chambers of City Hall on Wednesday, July 9, when the City Parks Advisory Board held its regular meeting to discuss the Creekside Campground Master Plan.

In 1990 Sisters City Park, located south of Highway 20 on the east end of town, was deeded to the City of Sisters by Oregon State Parks. The largest area, the Three Sisters Overnight Park, now known as Sisters Creekside Campground, consists of 13 acres on the east side of Whychus Creek and is used for overnight camping. The smaller area, Creekside Park, is three acres on the west side of Whychus Creek and is the picnic side and day-use area. The City was required to submit a master plan for the property at the time it was deeded.

The plan was created but never filed with the State, so Oregon State Parks has mandated that a new Creekside Park Master Plan be created and submitted to them for approval. They require the new plan contain a survey of the current park configuration, and also the City's plan for any future development. Any further development of the park and campground will not be allowed until the plan has been approved.

The State requires the formulation of the new plan include a public process.

The initial 2014 plan, which called for the cutting of numerous trees and creation of multiple new RV hookups, was met with stiff resistance by more than 200 people who signed a petition in opposition to the plan. The proposal was scrapped, and now the Parks Advisory Board is charged with making recommendations for the park to be presented to the city council.

During visitor communication last Wednesday, a number of citizens voiced their opinions and concerns regarding the future of the Creekside Campground. J.J. Yacovella, who lives two blocks from the campground, is opposed to any further development. He related stories of diesel and generator noise at night, smoke from campfires drifting toward his house, necessitating him keeping his windows closed on summer evenings, and campers routinely allowing their dogs to run and defecate on his property without cleaning up.

Yacovella expressed that the very reasons he moved to Sisters are being negatively impacted by the activities of the campground. He fears that any further development to increase the number of camping sites will worsen the situation.

Lynn Baker, who resides on the south side of the campground, agreed with Yacovella's assessment of noise and pollution and cited traffic congestion in the surrounding neighborhoods on busy summer weekends. He reported motor coaches that were either unable to secure a space in the campground or wished to avoid paying the camp fee, parked on the adjacent neighborhood streets for several nights at a time.

Ed Protas, also a resident of the adjoining neighborhood, urged the board to consider the four goals that were outlined in the original 1990 master plan for the campground. He also wondered where the money would come from for further development and how any increased revenue produced by the campground would be used.

Sisters resident Mike Morgan was opposed to changing the demographics of the tourists who are attracted to stay at the campground. Currently the facility is appropriate for tent camping and smaller campers and motorhomes. He pointed out that Class A motor coaches, because of their large size, require wide open spaces with few trees and straight roads.

Morgan believes that by making the necessary changes to the park to accommodate large rigs, the City would drastically change the nature of the campground. He questioned whether the State's intention in turning the land over to the City was "to turn it into a cash cow."

All of the citizens who spoke were thanked by the board for being at the meeting and sharing their concerns. They were also allowed to participate later in the discussions.

Following the election of Liam Hughes, Sisters Park & Recreation District executive director, as the new board chair, the board heard from Pauline Hardie, Community Development Director, who reviewed the four original 1990 goals and accompanying objectives to outline which projects have been completed.

The four main goals were: maintain or increase current levels of park use in an enjoyable and safe environment; maintain or increase recreational and educational features of the park; maintain or enhance scenic character of the park; and maintain and improve community activities in the park.

The 2011 City of Sisters Parks Master Plan, which addressed all of the city's parks, made the following recommendations for Creekside Park and Campground: Add recreational facilities (volleyball court, playground); create local access to a dog park; electrical upgrade on the southeast end for Whychus Trail lighting and park lighting; a posted map of the city that shows amenities; additional way-finding park signage; updates to the restroom; and potential for more lawn area.

Following staff comments, Hughes began the board discussion by suggesting that the first order of business would be to discuss the overriding purposes of the park and campground, before any planning is done. He pointed out that bringing in tourists is different than offering tent camping. Are we looking at providing increased recreation opportunities for our citizens or creating a tourist draw, or both? Other board members had multiple questions and ideas and entertained input from the audience.

The next step in the process will be for the full board to make site visits to the campground, including driving a large vehicle towing a trailer through, to assess the maneuverability and circulation within the park. It was suggested that perhaps one visit should be on a busy weekend and another during a quieter weekday.

City intern Marcus Arends will conduct a study of campground usage during the month of August to determine exact kinds of usage of the current facilities, and to assist the board in their deliberations, which will include discussions related to priorities, budget and timeline.

There will be more opportunities for public input throughout the process.