Atop priority for improving Hawthorne Park is the addition of a modern play area followed closely by a dog park.

Atop priority for improving Hawthorne Park is the addition of a modern play area followed closely by a dog park.

Based on a survey of the Medford Parks and Recreation Commission, other priorities include better walkways and lighting, a parking area on the north side and a splash pad.

The Medford Parks and Recreation Commission last week approved the preliminary list of priority items as part of plans to renovate the park in the near future.

"I would like to see the first four items get built first," said Parks Commissioner Dan Ratty.

Other commissioners hoped the top five priorities could be built first because they all were very close on the rating system. The Medford Urban Renewal Agency has set aside $1 million to improve the park.

Ratty said a new play area along Jackson Street and a dog park would help attract residents year round.

Chairman Rich Hansen said the only major draw to the park during the winter months from this priority list is the dog park.

For Hansen, developing year-round activities is a priority.

Many of the features may not attract sufficient visitors during the winter months to keep the homeless population away, he said.

"I think that before we start investing money, we need to sit down and seriously address the homeless issue," he said.

He said the exclusion ordinance supported by police is one possible step.

Another issue for Hansen is feeding homeless people in the park. Hansen said he supports programs to feed the homeless but wants to look at another solution. Medford police and other parks officials have said they haven't found an increase in criminal behavior as a result of the food program.

Hansen said he also would like to increase patrols in the park to discourage loitering.

Hansen said items on the priority list are merely suggestions, and he would be open to other options that might bring more people into the park.

A pool received the lowest score on the list. Voters last November rejected a pool levy to replace the existing facility.

Staff members of the Medford Parks and Recreation Department have begun studying how much each priority will cost.

"We will get cost estimates and see how far the $1 million goes," said Brian Sjothun, director of the Medford Parks and Recreation Department.

Another priority that isn't on the list is the demolition and removal of the swimming pool, closed in 2011 after it was found to be leaking 30,000 gallons a day.

Parks Commissioner Maria Cabler said she was surprised to see the other commissioners list a north parking area as a priority.

She also worried about bringing families to the park with all the behavior issues reported there.

"There is less of a chance of families coming there," she said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or