Better late than never for Liberty Park

The quarter-acre Liberty Park being built at North Bartlett and Maple streets in Medford was promised to the neighborhood 20 years ago
Steve Monroe, left, and Steve Ingram of Vitus Construction of Gold Hill compress the gravel as they work on a concrete sidewalk that will surround the playground in Medford's new Liberty Park. Mail Tribune / Bob PennellBob Pennell

A 20-year wait for a park in an economically depressed Medford neighborhood is almost over.

The quarter-acre park is under construction at the corner of North Bartlett and Maple streets in the Liberty Park neighborhood that sits just north of downtown. The park and the neighborhood share the same name.

"I feel it's not any bigger than somebody's backyard," said Joy Pelikan, who has spearheaded various efforts over the years to get a park in her neighborhood. "The most noticeable thing is going to be the bathroom."

Despite her feelings that the project is a bit of a letdown, she said it will be an improvement for the neighborhood.

"It will be better than when it wasn't a park," she said. "If there's something for people under 6 to crawl on that's an improvement."

Previously, the property was two empty lots covered in weeds during the summer. Workers from Vitus Construction Co. have been installing a walkway and underground utilities.

Lithia Motors was required to spend up to $500,000 on the park under an agreement with the Medford Urban Renewal Agency and the city of Medford. The park must be completed by the end of the year, according to an agreement between the city and Litha for The Commons, a redevelopment project in the downtown.

Lithia calculates it has provided $523,230 for the park, which includes land acquisition. Neighbors questioned Lithia's accounting of the costs of the project, but the MURA board accepted the calculation.

Many local residents were not happy with the location, which is at the southern end of the Liberty Park neighborhood. The park also is only a few blocks from the new parks in The Commons.

Some residents, such as John Statler, a former city council member, weren't even aware that work had started on the park.

"I haven't actually seen it," he said. "I don't go out that way."

Statler said he fully expected more delays before work would begin on the park.

"It's good that it's happening now," he said.

The playground will have a spin-max tower, which is an updated version of a merry-go-round. A play structure with areas to climb and slides will be installed. Five benches also have been ordered.

A multi-spring safari truck has been donated by Krauss Craft Inc., of Grants Pass, the manufacturer of the playground equipment. The value of the safari truck is $5,549.

The unisex bathroom will have a single toilet and sink, as well as a drinking fountain attached to the building.

The park has been long in coming, with other sites chosen but ultimately abandoned over the years.

As part of the justification for creating the Medford Urban Renewal Agency more than 20 years ago, the Liberty Park neighborhood was cited as an economically depressed area that would benefit from redevelopment dollars.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.

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