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Hope for Hawthorne?

Skeptical Medford residents would like $1.6 million in improvements to turn Hawthorne Park into a family-friendly place, but they have their doubts.

“It’ll be a nice park for the bums,” said Dick Fitzgerald at David Hallet Insurance Agency on Hawthorne Street. “They’ve been camping here for the past couple of weeks.”

Fitzgerald and David Hallet said they can walk out the back door of their office and smell the pot smoke from over the fence, but they don’t bother calling police anymore.

“Why?” Hallet said, expressing his frustration that they’ve dealt with these issues for years.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate a mural project that decorated six pillars supporting the viaduct on Interstate 5 at Hawthorne Park will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 18, with drinks and light snacks as well as entertainment.

Muralists Jessilyn Brinkerhoff and Esteban Camacho Steffensen painted scenes that depict Southern Oregon’s wildlife on the pillars.

The renovation of Hawthorne Park, which was supposed to be completed at the beginning of summer, has been running behind schedule. Parks and Recreation officials haven’t provided a date for the end of construction work but predict it should be soon.

Vitus Construction Inc. of Gold Hill built a dog park for small and large breeds as well as a new entry plaza, gardens, restroom, play structure, picnic shelter and walkways. It also restored a playing field and installed lighting.

Despite Fitzgerald’s skepticism, his granddaughter wants him to take her to the new playground, he said.

Chris London, owner of Pixel Productions Inc. on Hawthorne, said he is excited about the grand reopening of the park. He noticed problems improved when patrols increased, but they've since returned.

“Over the past month, I’ve noticed a lot of vagrant people lying out all day long,” he said. “It’s not a place I’d like to be with my kids.”

London said he frequently sees three or four people passed out on the grass and thought a full-time patrol through the park might be one solution, although an expensive one.

He said apart from constant patrolling of the park, he couldn’t think of a solution to the problem.

“It’s a place where the homeless and druggies congregate,” he said.

Across the street from Pixel, Medford Waxing employees said they have noticed a decrease in the homeless in recent months and hope the park offers enough programs to attract many Medford residents.

"I hope the number of homeless people decrease so that families can feel safe,” said Jennifer Short, an aesthetician.

Kayla Harrison, who was fixing a customer’s nails, said her big concern is that increased events at Hawthorne could make it more difficult for people looking for parking on the street.

While she’s not sure about how safe the park will be, she plans to take her two children over to the new playground.

“I will once it opens,” she said. “I’ll go and check it out.”

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

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Canoes and boats are part of the renovated Hawthorne Park playground. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch
Renovation of Hawthorne Park is nearing completion. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch