A legal battle between Jackson County and Medford over a 7.5-acre park off Table Rock Road has embroiled Cascade Christian High School in the fight.

A legal battle between Jackson County and Medford over a 7.5-acre park off Table Rock Road has embroiled Cascade Christian High School in the fight.

Jackson County sued the city last October asserting ownership of Table Rock Park, claiming the city reneged on a deed that requires the park to be open to the public at all times.

Then, in December, the city filed a motion to dismiss the case because Cascade Christian wasn't named in the original suit. The city maintained Cascade Christian has to be in the suit because it has so much at stake in the legal debate.

The county has since amended the suit to include Cascade Christian.

Ray Johnson, principal of Cascade Christian, said the school unfortunately got caught in the middle of the dispute between the county and the city.

"We want to end up at peace with all these people," he said. "We don't want to make enemies."

Johnson said the park has always remained open to the public according to the agreement reached with the city in coordination with local residents. Johnson said the residents requested the entrance to the park be through the school grounds.

The school has improved the entrance to the park recently, and Johnson said it is Cascade Christian's intention to keep the park open to the public even if the school acquires it in the future.

Johnson said the school has always responded to every request and concern expressed by the city.

"We're in the middle of this with a beautiful little park," he said.

The legal wrangling began after Jackson County sent the city a notice last year that the public has been excluded from the park, citing a long-standing deed restriction on the property. The county asserts the property already belongs to it because the deed restrictions were violated.

The only access to the city park is through the school's parking lot, but the county found the gate leading to it had been locked.

School officials told the city the gate was locked to allow the grass to grow, but county officials took photos of Cascade Christian's football team practicing on the grounds.

The city maintains the park has always been open to the public, pointing out that parks are routinely closed for maintenance.

Medford Assistant City Attorney Lori Cooper said the city and Cascade Christian have not violated the spirit of the deed, and, as a result, the park has not reverted back to the county.

"The city's position is it's 100 percent ours," she said.

In 2004, the city had indicated it would sell the park to Cascade Christian. The sale would be accomplished through a land swap of an equivalent number of acres.

Cascade Christian and the city signed a 25-year lease in 2008 after the school spent years trying to come to some agreement to buy the property, which is next door to the high school and was previously unused. During a hearing, the county didn't raise any objections to the exclusive lease agreement.

The agreement allows the school exclusive use of the park during the school day, from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Public access is allowed after 5 p.m., and full access is allowed during most weekends and summer months.

The county originally purchased the park for $60,675 using Land and Water Conservation grants and other county dollars. The school has spent at least $140,000 on developing the park, not counting volunteer time.

In its suit, the county claims the school's exclusive or preferential use of the park violates the deed restrictions. County officials found the gate to the park closed on various occasions.

Commissioner C.W. Smith said it would be inappropriate to comment on a lawsuit.

He said Cascade Christian was only brought into the suit as part of a legal issue that had to be addressed.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.