Making Hawthorne Park a safer, more family-friendly place could cost $1.5 million — 50 percent more than budgeted — the Medford Urban Renewal Agency discovered Thursday.
Plans for the park, which has developed a poor reputation in recent years because of crime and homeless issues, are coming into clearer focus — along with the price tag.
"I won't say it surprised me," said Dick Gordon, president of the MURA board, who along with other board members supported the latest design. "But I guess it was wishful thinking that it would be less than that."
The MURA board had set aside $1 million to upgrade the park in hopes of incorporating park improvements into revitalization efforts for downtown.
The proposal calls for a new playground area near Jackson Street, basketball courts, extensive lighting, a water feature, removal of some trees to improve visibility, increased parking, more walkways and other features, including a dog park for small and large dogs. The dog park at Bear Creek Park would remain open, as well.
Dressing up the columns supporting the viaduct for Interstate 5 with some kind of art work is another suggestion, along with continuing to clean up the area along Bear Creek.
A survey of local residents found the top priorities for Hawthorne were a pool, restrooms, playground, lighting and cleaning up the area along Bear Creek.
Group MacKenzie has undertaken the surveys and planning for the park at a cost of $64,345.
Gordon said it's possible to complete the improvements to the park in phases, but added he would like to see all the work completed at once.
He said MURA could potentially dip into contingency funds to build the project.
"I definitely like the design," Councilman Eli Matthews said. "There's something for everybody."
Councilman Al Densmore said, "I like the way the park is opened up."
Vegetation that would be planted as part of the project would be low-growing to discourage overnight camping.
One of the big issues facing the MURA board is whether voters will support a $14.5 million levy this November to build a new indoor pool at Hawthorne Park and another pool next to Jackson Elementary.
Gordon said that if voters don't approve the pool, it would have an effect on the overall design of Hawthorne Park.
"Without the indoor, year-round pool facility, it would have an impact on our decision," he said.
Gordon said the MURA board would likely wait until after the November election before taking any action on improving Hawthorne Park.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email@example.com.