TALENT — Lease of Lynn Newbry Park at no cost from Oregon's Department of Transportation will give the city control over a facility it already maintains and has helped to upgrade.
The City Council approved the no-fee arrangement in November, and both parties have signed the agreement. The lease is for five years, but it includes a 20-year renewal option.
"It's the gateway to Talent," said Parks Commissioner Janet Chose. "We really couldn't do anything with it because it wasn't our park. I don't think people were aware of that."
The city has looked into buying the park several times — a master parks plan called for acquisition of the 2.46-acre park along Bear Creek — but the asking price has always been beyond the city's means, said Mayor Bill Cecil.
Located within city limits at Interstate 5's Exit 21, the area has been maintained by several agencies over the years.
Parks commissioners recommended the council go forward with the lease. Future development proposals will be included in an update of the master parks plan undertaken by the commission, said Chose.
"If it feels good, and we like doing it for the next five years, then we have an option for the next 20 years," Chose said. "So we can kind of try it out."
An ODOT representative said the arrangement was good for both the city and the state.
"The city benefits because it's a facility their residents can use," said ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming. "ODOT benefits in the sense that we get to keep the land in case there's any kind of improvements years down the road at that interchange."
No exit improvements are on the horizon, Leaming added.
In 2009, the city put in a new restroom at the park with ODOT's permission, at a cost of $56,000, to replace portable restrooms the city had been renting. The city also has worked on the park's irrigation system, Cecil said.
Cost of park maintenance over the next five years is projected at $2,500 to $3,000 annually. City officials assumed maintenance of the park in 2004 with a verbal contract after a 25-year agreement with Jackson County expired. The county-state agreement was instituted when the Bear Creek Greenway was routed through the park.
Jackson County repaved the Greenway through the park earlier this year. Tree roots had caused bumps to rise in the pavement.
A grassy area extends to Bear Creek, and there is a shelter with two picnic tables, as well as two parking areas. An exercise and stretching station was removed from the park several years ago because of deterioration.
Lynn Newbry, who was born in Talent, died here June 27 at the age of 88. He was a state senator for 14 years and served on state commissions and the boards of several groups. He lived in Talent his entire life, was a nine-year Talent School District board member, and managed the family's orchard and packing house.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at email@example.com.