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MailTribune.com
  • Hawthorne redesign proposal set to be reviewed

  • Voter rejection of a pool bond last year forced Medford officials to revamp a plan to turn Hawthorne Park from a homeless enclave into a family-friendly downtown attraction.
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  • Voter rejection of a pool bond last year forced Medford officials to revamp a plan to turn Hawthorne Park from a homeless enclave into a family-friendly downtown attraction.
    At 6 p.m. Thursday, the Medford Urban Renewal Agency will consider the latest plan, a $1.7 million proposal to redesign Hawthorne Park, which has been plagued by crime and vagrancy issues over the years. The new plan includes a spray pad, basketball courts, artwork and two dog parks — for small and large dogs.
    "I frankly think the water feature is very important if we want to attract more people to the park," said Rich Hansen, chairman of the Medford Parks and Recreation Commission. "It will draw more families."
    Hansen said he would urge other commission members to support all the changes proposed for the park. The commission was scheduled to meet Tuesday night and will forward its recommendation to MURA.
    A base plan to renovate the park would cost almost $1.5 million, or $500,000 more than the MURA board previously had earmarked for the project.
    However, the splash pad, artwork, skate park and two basketball courts, plus one free-play court, would add another $200,000. The splash pad alone amounts to $120,000.
    "My first choice would be to have everything," Hansen said. "That may not be realistic."
    At first blush, he said, the estimates for the various features appeared high to him, so he hoped the actual bids for the project would come in far lower.
    The plan calls for demolition of the existing pool and continuing the restoration of Bear Creek, which are estimated to cost $109,500.
    The city had hoped voters would approve a $14.5 million bond levy last year to pay for two new pools. Hawthorne pool closed in 2011 because of leaks. The pool next to Jackson Elementary School remains open, though officials expect it will ultimately fail because of its age.
    The cost to demolish Hawthorne pool was factored into the levy amount. As a result, urban renewal dollars will now have to be tapped to remove it, which has helped push up the overall cost of a Hawthorne Park makeover.
    A new playground and shelter would be built at the north end of the park at Jackson Street, where the splash pad would also be installed. The playground was the feature given the highest priority by the Medford Parks & Recreation Commission.
    The skate park, which would be designed more for beginner skaters, would be built to the north, closer to Bear Creek.
    The dog parks, which had the second-highest priority, would be placed in the center, and a proposed Bear Creek overlook would be built nearby.
    An expanded parking area would be built along Hawthorne Street. New walkways would be built throughout the park, along with new lighting and a new restroom.
    Improved irrigation equipment and many new plants would be installed, as well.
    Hansen said all the features he sees in the plan make sense to encourage more families to use the park.
    "You have to have it all," he said. "The question is whether you can afford it all."
    Brian Sjothun, director of parks and recreation, said the cost breakdown assumes a worst-case scenario.
    "There are just a lot of unknowns when you rehabilitate something compared to new construction," he said.
    He said the project also includes more clean up and restoration of Bear Creek. He said the city will continue its partnership with Medford-based Oregon Stewardship to clean up the creek.
    To encourage more use of the park, the city will devise programs that take place simultaneously at the new parks in The Commons as well as at Hawthorne Park, Sjothun said.
    Events could include having food vendors and arts-and-craft fairs at the remodeled park, he said.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email dmann@mailtribune.com.
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