A20-year wait for a park in an economically depressed neighborhood should come to an end when the project goes out to bid in August.
"I think it's going to be a very nice park," said Rich Hansen, chairman of the Medford Parks and Recreation Commission. "It makes the best use of a small- to medium-sized property."
In January, the Medford Urban Renewal Agency approved plans for the quarter-acre Liberty Park at the corner of North Bartlett and Maple streets that will have a playground, a climbing structure, a grassy area, a shelter, a restroom and some other features.
Joy Pelikan, a neighbor who has followed the park proposal over the years, said the plan appears to feature many amenities sought by the neighborhood, though the small size is a bit of a let-down after so many years of waiting.
"I'm wanting to be collaborative and cooperative and joyful for our neighborhood, but it is so diminutive," Pelikan said. "But it will be nicer for our neighborhood."
She said she's not sure what the final design for the park is, since it has changed so many times over the years.
John Statler, a former councilor who lives near the proposed park, said he will take a wait-and-see attitude toward the plans.
He said the park is not as centrally located as many residents had hoped.
"It's quite a ways to push with a stroller," he said.
The park has had a long history, with other sites chosen but ultimately abandoned over the years.
In order to create the Medford Urban Renewal Agency more than 20 years ago, the Liberty Park neighborhood was often cited as an economically depressed area that would benefit from redevelopment dollars.
Lithia Motors was required to spend up to $500,000 on the park as part of its agreement with MURA and the city of Medford to build The Commons downtown.
In January, the MURA board accepted Lithia's accounting of how much it provided for the project, which totaled $523,230.
Much of the investment went toward land acquisition and planning, according to Lithia.
Lithia has provided $150,000 in cash to help pay for the actual work to build the park.
Even after the contributions, the city came up short by $109,795 to complete the park as designed. This required obtaining grants for the project as well as using public works dollars for installation of sidewalks.
According to Brian Sjothun, director of Medford Parks and Recreation, the amount that will be used to build the park is the $259,795 authorized by the MURA board in January. The park is expected to be complete by Dec. 31.
While many residents hoped the park would be more centrally located, Hansen of the Parks and Recreation Commission said he predicts the park will become a vital part of the community.
"A couple of years from now, people will say it is worth the wait," he said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.