Judge to consider county lawsuit against city over park

A year after Jackson County first filed a lawsuit against Medford claiming ownership of Table Rock Park, a judge finally may decide who owns the property.

Exclusive use of the 7.5-acre property was granted by the city to the adjacent Cascade Christian High School as part of a 25-year lease in 2008, something the county says violated its deed with the city.

The deed says that the property — which was developed into a park by Cascade Christian — must be used "for public park and recreation purposes."

The county believes that Cascade Christian's exclusive use of the park from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays between Sept. 1 and June 5 violates this deed, and therefore the property should return to county ownership.

The city claims that since the park is still open to the public outside of school hours, the deed has not been violated.

A Jackson County judge on Monday is set to consider the deed and whether the lawsuit is a question of basic facts, according to Medford Assistant City Attorney Lori Cooper.

Cooper said if a decision isn't made, a trial will begin Nov. 15.

The legal battle began in 2010, when the county sent a notice to the city complaining about restricted access to the public park. The county claims that on various occasions the gate to the park was closed or locked.

School officials say the park may have been closed to allow the grass to grow, and city officials pointed out that many parks routinely are closed for maintenance.

Cooper said the county is upset that preferential use of the property has been given to Cascade Christian, but she also said agreements like this for city parks are common.

"This is not unusual at all," said Cooper, citing Little League fields and other public parks that have exclusive-use agreements with organizations.

According to Cooper, the land originally was purchased by the county in the 1970s or '80s using Land and Water Conservation grants.

The property cost roughly $60,000 and was deeded to the city in 1984.

Since its 2008 lease agreement with the city, Cascade Christian has put more than $140,000 into developing the park.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or email tristow@mailtribune.com.

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