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Liberty Park playground nears complteion

A brightly colored playground for small children sits temptingly inside Medford's newest park, at the corner of North Bartlett and Maple streets.

Nicole Frodge, a 7-year-old neighbor, couldn't wait for the official opening next month and took a spin on a tilting merry-go-round.

"It's good," she said before rushing home for lunch Tuesday.

Vitus Construction Co. is applying the finishing touches to Liberty Park.

The park, almost a quarter-acre in size, has been a political football for 20 years, ever since the creation of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency. Neighbors have clamored for the park as they watched MURA complete almost $70 million in other projects.

The park was supposed to be completed by the end of the year to meet a deadline established as part of an agreement to build The Commons.

Brian Sjothun, Medford Parks and Recreation director, said the park is 98 percent complete after snow and icy weather delayed the project, he said.

The park won't open to the public until the middle of January to give the sod and other landscaping a chance to take root, he said.

"The city of Medford, the Medford Urban Renewal Agency and Lithia are within the intent of the DDA (disposition and development agreement) by having the park significantly completed by the Dec. 31 deadline," Sjothun wrote in an email.

Neighbor Joy Pelikan, who has worked to see the park built for two decades, said the park is an improvement for the community, but she is hard-pressed to see an investment that Lithia Motors and the city calculate at more than $600,000.

"The grass area is so small," she said. "If I put a tablecloth down there, then that's it — there would be no more room."

Pelikan said the park seems to have a lot of concrete, which she surmises is to keep maintenance costs down.

She said the community wanted muted colors in the park, but she sees a lot of orange from the playground equipment.

Instead of a safer rubber surface under the playground equipment, she sees bark.

"I look at all these details, and the more I look the less I become calm," she said. "Details aside, it is an upgrade for the neighborhood."

Lithia Motors, which was required to build the park as part of its agreement over The Commons, estimates it has put $523,230 into it, which includes land acquisition. The city of Medford has contributed an additional $109,795 to get the project completed.

The park has a playground area with a climbing structure and safari truck, which was donated by Krauss Craft Inc. of Grants Pass, the manufacturer of the playground equipment. The safari truck is valued at $5,549.

A unisex bathroom has a single toilet and sink, and a drinking fountain is attached to the building.

A shaded area next to the bathroom will shield picnickers from sun and rain.

Sam Frodge, 29, who was visiting his mother and other relatives across the street, said he's been looking forward to bringing his four children to the park.

"They'll be here quite a bit," he said. "It looks a lot better than it looked three or four months ago."

Frodge said he's been inspecting the park to see whether there are any safety concerns bringing his children or his relatives' children to play.

"I don't see an issue," he said. "I may play on this myself."

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

John Abbate of Medford, who works with On the Spot Landscaping, lays sod Tuesday at Liberty Park in Medford. - Jamie Lusch