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Liberty Park still waiting

When Bob Shand and his wife moved to the corner of Alice and Beatty streets, he was a newlywed and a soon-to-be father, excited to raise children in the rose-colored house built in 1908.

“It was a nice, cool house built at the turn of the century — affordable, centrally located, close to everything that we needed it to be,” he said. “It was lacking in parts, but I really couldn’t afford an east side house.”

Even as the Shands have stayed in and enjoyed their home for the past 30 years, they’ve seen shortcomings in their part of town, which when they moved was called the Beatty-Manzanita neighborhood. These days, it’s called Liberty Park.

“I want to make sure that as a city we receive an equal prioritization as any other part of the city,” Shand said. “And not just where the mayor might drive by a few times a week and see.”

Safety and livability are two of the main factors that Liberty Park neighborhood residents hope the Medford Urban Renewal Agency will bolster when it at long last settles on projects on which to spend a declared $17 million of grant money.

MURA decided on the amount in March. The projects, however, will remain undetermined until June, as Planning Department employees continue to gather input from residents.

“We’re trying to wrap up what we heard from the open house and understand what are the top priorities that people are telling us,” said Carla Paladino, principal planner for the Liberty Park Neighborhood Plan. She and two other employees from the Planning Department will make their recommendation to the MURA board, which is composed of the City Council and city officials.

The final decisions about which projects are funded rest with the MURA board.

Even as the board waits on community input, it has decades of residents’ feedback to reference in making its plan. Liberty Park was included in Medford’s Urban Renewal District in 1988. The city drafted its first neighborhood revitalization plan in 2002.

Since then, the city has created Liberty Park, a 0.12-acre area with grass and a playground, in 2014. But traffic, trash and safety issues linger.

The Shands say they’ve waited for years to see investment from the city comparable to what they’ve seen go to other parts of Medford, especially downtown. The attention the neighborhood has received doesn’t always make sense to the Shands.

Walking a circle from Beatty over to Niantic down to Manzanita and back, Shand points out the lack of sidewalks that forces pedestrians out into the streets, and recently installed Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalk corners that lead onto grass or broken asphalt.

“You’ll start looking at things and say, ‘OK, I see that — why did they do that?’ ” he said.

Drivers traveling north or south will often bypass traffic lights by cutting through the neighborhood, which is why residents have told the city in surveys and at open houses that they want traffic calming measures, from stop signs to speed bumps. Mitigating speeding was listed as the highest priority of the 2002 city plan, in part due to the death of a child on Boardman Street.

Other organizations besides the city have worked to bring development and opportunities to the area. Board members from Kids Unlimited, which sits in the eastern half of the neighborhood, have attended advisory committee meetings over the past eight months, said Executive Director Tom Cole. The school has provided space community meetings.

Kids Unlimited also tries to provide safe and active spaces for kids through after-school programs and improved facilities — part of its “Building the Block” campaign.

“I hope that information is being sort of determined and evaluated by folks at the city,” Cole said. “We’re obviously trying to be very hopeful about it.”

Paladino acknowledged that longtime residents feel frustrated with the length of the process.

“I think at this point they just want to see something happen,” she said.

Even so, they’ll still be waiting for a word from MURA for another six months.

Back at the corner of Alice and Beatty streets, Shand has a fix-it ticket from the city to repair the sidewalk in front of his home. He has 30 days to fix the concrete — 90 if he gets an extension.

From his front yard, you can see the cracks in the sidewalk flanking his property, but beyond to the west side of Beatty Street, other ADA-compliant sidewalk ramps give way to mud and rough asphalt edges.

“I want it to be compliant. I want it to be safe,” Shand said. “I’ll do my part, my responsibility as a homeowner.

“It won’t take 30 years to do it.”

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

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