Steve Rast and his son Mitchell, 2, make a tight fit but found a way to get through the Hawthorne Park slide together during a visit from Eugene. Park visitors say a new playground should be on the list of improvements for the downtown park. - Bob Pennell

Turning a 'thorne' into a rose

An ice skating rink and improved security are two ideas city officials may consider before they invest $1 million to change the reputation of Hawthorne Park from somewhat seedy to family-friendly.

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency board last week considered a recommendation to spend $50,000 to develop a master plan for the park, which would be developed after discussions with the public and local businesses.

The plan that comes out would establish guidelines for spending $950,000 to make improvements at the downtown park. The funding is part of $12.5 million the urban renewal agency is spending as it enters its final years.

City officials want to come up with ideas that would bring more visitors and change the image of the park, which keeps Medford police busy with calls for drug use to public urination. In May, a fight broke out among more than 12 people, leading to the stabbing of one man.

The master plan likely will include strategies to improve park security such as new lighting. Park visitors Friday agreed that more security measures would be appreciated.

"You can tell there's a crew out there that does drugs and stuff," said Carlos Robinson, a 37-year-old Medford resident who brought his son and daughter to the park Friday. "Other than that it looks like a good escape for a family."

Klamath Falls resident Allison Lipe, who brought her 19-month-old daughter Kanati to the park, said she noticed some people hanging out who worried her.

"I was a little hesitant walking over," said the 31-year-old mother. "It's not the atmosphere you want to bring your kid to."

She said it was nice having the park near downtown, but added, "It's a little outdated."

Jim Kuntz, MURA board member and city councilman, said he personally favors rebuilding Hawthorne Pool, which was shut down this year after the discovery of a 30,000-gallon-a-day leak.

He said a pool would be a long-term investment by the city, citing the 61-year lifespan of the existing pool. Kuntz said he also would support some kind of cover over the pool area so it could be used as a year-round recreational facility.

An ice skating rink — similar to the one in Lithia Park — could be built at the parking lot under one suggestion in the city's Leisure Services Plan in 2006. The coils, which would keep the rink frozen, would be installed under the asphalt, allowing the area to be used for parking in the summer, Kuntz said.

Kuntz said the idea, which he first heard of Thursday, is an interesting one but he's not sure how it would pencil out. "We'll see about that idea," Kuntz said. "The devil is in the details."

Also on the list of ideas are a water park, renovation of the bathhouse and replacement of the restrooms. A skate and BMX bike park could be built under the Interstate 5 viaduct. The picnic area could be moved. Dick Gordon, a city councilman and MURA board member, said it's too early to speculate on what should be done with the park, though he did say increased security would be high on the list.

Some items that were considered by the city previously — such as the ice skating rink — will have to be looked at carefully because the needs of the city have changed since the idea was first proposed, he said.

Medford officials estimate the master plan could be completed by March 2012. Construction of new facilities at the park could be finished by June 2013.

Bill Fiedler said he and his wife like Hawthorne because of its many shade trees.

The 40-year-old Medford father visited four parks Friday, much to the delight of his 4-year-old daughter, Juliana.

He said, however, he is concerned about potential problems in the park. "My wife says there are a lot of homeless who live here," he said.

Fiedler had one suggestion that was echoed by others. "If they put in a new playground, it would be nice," he said.

But Albino Mendoza, a 22-year-old White City resident, didn't see much that needed improvement while he watched his 17-month-old son play.

"I remember coming here when I was 11 or 12," Mendoza said. "I like it the way it is."

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

Share This Story