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Park within a park

Hawthorne Park’s $1.6 million makeover to improve its unsavory image is about to get some extra help from local business leaders.

The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County Leadership Class of 2014-15 wants to piggyback on the ongoing rehabilitation efforts at Hawthorne and create a one-third-acre minipark next to Jackson Street that will appeal to children.

“I’ve personally wanted to do something there for years,” said Amy Thuren, project leader for the chamber.

Thuren said she previously worked across the street from the park at the Red Cross, but she now runs Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southern Oregon.

Over the years, Hawthorne has been less than kid-friendly, with vagrancy issues that include stabbings, fights, dog attacks, public intoxication and public urination.

The leadership group wants to raise $70,000 to pay for the natural park, which will simulate a rock-strewn creek with three canoes anchored securely to the ground and is designed to encourage children to play. About $30,000 has been raised so far from groups such as the Coquille Indian Tribe, Dutch Bros, Lithia Motors, Personnel Source, Rogue Credit Union, Asante and Century Link. For information call 541-779-4847.

Groundbreaking should begin toward the end of March, with completion expected sometime in May. Firms such as Johnny Cat and Adroit Construction Co. have offered to help with the project.

“We see this effort as another way to get more people downtown,” Thuren said.

The leadership park, which is currently undergoing review by Medford officials, is planned adjacent to a new playground area at the corner of Jackson and Hawthorne streets.

To simulate a riverbed snaking through the park, sand will be transported from Coos Bay. Trees, ornamental grasses, log rounds and boulders will be installed.

“We wanted to take little pieces of Oregon and represent them in the park,” Thuren said.

She said her team envisions the park as another place for children to play in addition to the playground that will be built just to the east.

Laurie Sager and Associates, a landscape design company in Ashland, designed the park.

Vitus Construction Inc. of Gold Hill has the contract to renovate Hawthorne and has been working on the dog parks that will be two of its new main features.

Other improvements at Hawthorne will include an entry plaza, gardens, restroom, play structure, field restoration, picnic shelter, walkways and lighting.

Renovations should be completed by this summer, and the City Council hopes the improvements bring more families to the park and greatly diminish the vagrancy issues.

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

Chamber leadership members Bruce Hearnsberger and project leader Amy Thuren are creating a children's park for the north end of Hawthorne Park across from the Medford Center. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell