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Where did all the money go for the park?

When Wes Howard died and bequeathed all the property under the Bi-Mart property in west Medford, what became of all the money over the past 10-plus years? They want everybody to pay for a swimming pool, which sounds great, but what happened to all the money from the rent on the property and all the beehive of affordable housing that the city and the parks department has been holding onto all these years?

— Karl G., Central Point

Before we dive into an answer, Karl, let’s review how the park idea came about.

The 58-acre park is the legacy of Wes Howard, who died in 2003 at age 87 and left behind an estate valued at $11 million, about $1 million of which was in cash.

By 2009, most of the $1 million had been used for roadwork, drainage, parking and soccer fields on a portion of the park property located off Ross Lane.

Howard also left behind a 10-acre property on West Main Street, which is occupied by the Bi-Mart you mentioned, Karl.

The long-term lease for the property, which also includes the Original Roadhouse Grill, brings in from $30,000 to $44,000 annually, which pays for maintenance on the developed areas of the park.

A portion of the Howard park property also has been leased to Logos Charter School for $1 a year.

For years, the Howard Memorial Sports Park Inc. considered other options to develop the park, including working with the YMCA. Designs called for an Olympic-size pool, basketball courts and other amenities.

“The bottom line is there just wasn’t enough money available,” said Rich Rosenthal, Medford parks director.

The park property was recently annexed into the city to help push forward ambitious plans for an aquatics center.

As a result, the city, working with the Howard Memorial Sports Park board, came up with a plan to build a recreational and event center that would cost about $60 million, paid for over 30 years with increased hotel lodging taxes, expanded rental car fees and an increase in the park utility fee from the current $2.95 a month to $5.35.

We’re not quite sure what you are referring to with the affordable housing, Karl.

Rosenthal said there is no affordable housing on the Howard properties.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.