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New park on the horizon

A dream of turning a field of weeds into a new Medford park will be one step closer to reality if the city decides to annex a 58.1-acre property at the corner of Highway 238 and North Ross Lane.

“It has such a potential to be a jewel of Medford,” said Councilor Kevin Stine, who is on the Wes Howard Memorial Sports Park board.

The city scheduled a public hearing Thursday night to discuss plans to bring the land and portions of Highway 238 and North Ross Lane within city limits.

Eccentric millionaire Wes Howard died in 2003, leaving an estate valued at $11 million, with about $1 million in cash, to Howard Memorial Sports Park Inc. The nonprofit built some roads on the property and a soccer field and donated 5.5 acres to Logos Charter School. Most of the land, however, has remained undeveloped.

Meanwhile the city hasn’t controlled the park property, but if the annexation process is completed that would change markedly.

Stine said there have been discussions about a community pool and athletics center at the park.

The city has been involved in selecting new board members to help turn it into an official city park, with plans to turn it into a smaller version of popular U.S. Cellular Community Park in south Medford.

In addition to Stine, other members of the Wes Howard Memorial Sports Park board include Councilor Mike Zarosinski, lawyer Dan O’Connor, and Rich Rosenthal, director of Medford Parks and Recreation. John Schleining remains as one of the founding board members.

The previous nonprofit’s board of directors requested that City Council appoint new board members to help advance plans for the park.

Stine said preliminary discussions have been raised about selling off some of Wes Howard’s land where Bi-Mart, 2687 W. Main St., is located. He said the money from the sale could help kickstart development of the new park.

“We’re really just on the ground floor,” Stine said.

If the property is annexed, the city eventually will require storm drain improvements and stormwater retention facilities.

The city typically offers a park within a half-mile of a given residential area. But this portion of west Medford doesn’t have any parks. If the Wes Howard Memorial Sports Park is built, it would serve 1,164 homes with 2,824 residents in that area.

Rosenthal said he estimates it will cost $15 million to develop the 48 acres into a park. That estimate doesn’t include lighting and artificial turf that is found at the ballfields at U.S. Cellular Park, which has been a tourist draw for the region.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Correction: The article previously stated that Jackson County sent a letter to the city July 9 supporting annexation of the property into the city. In the letter referenced, Jackson County Roads supports the annexation of Ross Lane North to the City of Medford.

Mail Tribune file photoEccentric millionaire Wes Howard died in 2003, leaving an estate valued at $11 million, with about $1 million in cash, to Howard Memorial Sports Park Inc. The nonprofit built some roads on the property and a soccer field and donated 5.5 acres to Logos Charter School. Most of the land, however, has remained undeveloped.