Weeds win the battle at Howard Park site

I see people mowing vacant lots and providing fire breaks this time of year, and I understand that you can be fined for not doing so. Is the city of Medford exempt from doing the same?

The Wes Howard Memorial Park was mowed the first year they owned it but not since. I believe they mowed the portion abutting Sterns Way mobile home park but nowhere else.

Some children started a fire some years back and the fire department responded. Shouldn't they mow a perimeter all the way around?

— Ann T., Medford

Well, first of all Ann, the 66-acre park on the corner of Rossanley Road and North Ross Lane isn't owned by the city of Medford. In fact, it's just outside the city limits. The park is owned by the Wes Howard Foundation, which has invested $1 million to install a soccer field, install drainage, build a road and add sewer and water lines.

We checked in with state Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, who is on the board of directors of the foundation that has been working to develop the park. He said that at least a 50-foot wide perimeter is supposed to be mowed to keep the weeds down in the park. Esquivel said the park should be regularly mowed, though he said not all undeveloped areas of the park are mowed, particularly areas where there are berms.

We sent out a crack crew of investigative reporters from the Since You Asked Tiger Team. Yes, there are weeds growing around the park, anywhere from ground level to a couple of feet tall in some places. It seems the weed height is pretty typical at this time of the year for empty lots — which unfortunately describes most of the park.

And, in case you are wondering, the county doesn't have a weed abatement ordinance.

Esquivel said he wouldn't mind it if the county or the city took over the park since it has been so difficult to raise money to complete the park, which was supposed to be developed mainly for use by children.

Wes Howard, who died in 2003, donated the land and $1 million toward the park. But the money was largely spent on the one field and other infrastructure and the rest of the propery is, well, weed-filled.

Howard lived on the site in a decrepit 1890s-era, two-story Victorian farmhouse, which has been demolished.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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