Construction of a new fire station in north Medford could take some steam out of family events planned at the Medford Railroad Park during the busy months of September and October.
“We’ll be turning some people away,” said Dick Stark, a member of the Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club, one of multiple groups that use the park. “We’ve taken a lot of deep breaths.”
Medford Fire Station No. 4 will be demolished in August, and then reconstruction of a new facility will begin immediately.
A parking lot at the fire station that can handle 170 vehicles will be closed off, leaving only the 97-space lot at the park for events from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. that draw up to 2,000 visitors a day.
Stark said that when the park holds big events on the second and fourth Sundays of each month, both lots are often full. Parking attendants direct traffic and make sure visitors park in designated spaces.
With more than half the parking unavailable, park supporters will encourage people to carpool or use public transportation. In some cases, many families may choose to not come to the Sunday events, Stark said.
The entrance at Table Rock Road and Berrydale Avenue sometimes becomes congested, requiring attendants to help direct traffic. Stark said he expects Table Rock Road to get more congested once the fire station parking lot is closed.
During August, attendance declines slightly because of the heat. But during September and October, Stark sees 1,800 to 2,000 people at the events on a given Sunday. Stark said a typical vehicle usually contains about four people, though visitors are usually spread out during the hours of the event.
Five clubs that use the Railroad Park have sent out mailers and installed signs to let visitors know that big changes are coming soon. The clubs are Southern Oregon Live Steamers, Southern Oregon Railway Historical Society, Morse Telegraphers, Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club and Medford Garden Railroaders. The park is run by Medford Parks and Recreation.
Stark said park supporters have approached other organizations and businesses in the area to see whether they will allow parking for events. So far, owners of other parking lots have given them rejections, citing liability issues. Stark said he and other park supporters will continue to search out other possibilities, though he anticipates visitors might have to walk some distance from a parking lot to the park.
Using a shuttle service has been ruled out because of cost, Stark said.
The fire district is building three new stations with a budget of $10.6 million to modernize its aging facilities.
Deputy Fire Chief Justin Bates said his agency has worked well with clubs that use the park and said volunteer attendants have been careful to keep motorists from blocking emergency vehicles.
Bates said he understands the clubs are worried about the parking situation during the construction.
“I feel for them,” he said. “I know the train park is a very popular attraction, particularly during the summer.”
A temporary building is being erected to store fire equipment, and a double-wide trailer is being brought in to house firefighters once demolition of the existing building begins, Bates said.
Parking in a construction zone would create liability issues, he said.
Once the new fire station is built, some of the parking area will be taken over by the larger facility, Bates said. At this point, he said he isn’t sure how many spaces will be lost.
Also, the fire department uses the parking lot as a training facility, though the training usually takes places on days when events aren’t being held at the park, Bates said.
Given the success of the Railroad Park, Bates said the city likely will have to look at some long-term solutions to provide additional parking.