Salvation Army plans to build a park of its own

A proposal to create a long-sought, city-managed park in a low-income area of west Medford on Salvation Army property has fizzled.

The Salvation Army decided it couldn't accept anything longer than a 10-year lease to the city for the property at Edwards and Niantic streets. The city had hoped for at least a 25-year lease.

However, the Salvation Army has decided to continue to build a neighborhood park through its own fundraising efforts.

"It'll be our park, on our property," said Jackie Agee, the Salvation Army's development director. "It will be predominately a neighborhood park."

The Salvation Army property has been eyed by neighborhood residents and city officials for more than a decade as a possible site for a park.

Lithia Motors is required to build a park for up to $500,000 in the neighborhood as part of its agreement with the Medford Urban Renewal Agency over The Commons project, which features the headquarters for Lithia.

Last year, the Medford Parks and Recreation Commission approved a park proposal at Maple and Bartlett streets. Then the city and Lithia entered into negotiations with the Salvation Army.

With the Salvation Army's property off the table, Brian Sjothun, director of Medford Parks and Recreation, said the city will turn its attention back to the Maple Street property.

"That is what has already been approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission," he said.

Sjothun said the city isn't interested in going through a lengthy process to consider other possible sites for the park at this time.

A design already has been prepared for the Maple Street property by the city.

Sjothun said The Salvation Army proposal was extremely generous, and he anticipated the organization would create a park that would be of benefit to the neighborhood.

If the Salvation Army builds its park, the neighborhood could end up with two parks.

"Is this a problem or is it an opportunity?" said Rich Hansen, Parks and Recreation Commission member.

While disappointed the Salvation Army deal didn't work out, he said it's good news that the organization still plans to build a park.

Hansen said he would like to hear from the community about the park at a study session scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 1, at the Santo Community Center, 701 N. Columbus Ave.

"The Parks Commission has a responsibility to listen to the neighborhood," he said.

Joy Pelikan, who has struggled to get a park built in her neighborhood, said she thinks that a smaller park proposed at Maple and Bartlett streets could end up being the final choice, though that location is not in a central location.

"I don't prefer the one on Maple, but I also don't prefer looking for other pieces of property that aren't available," Pelikan said. "We have to have a park."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email

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