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Group unveils plan for a new Warrenton park

First published in the May 28 print edition

A group of residents proposes turning this grassy lot behind City Hall into a public park. (Cindy Yingst)
By Cindy Yingst, Thursday, June 3, 2021

A group of Warrenton residents want to turn a vacant downtown lot owned by the city of Warrenton into a community gathering place with a gazebo, picnic tables, corn-hole games.

“I know people need a vision to understand where we’re wanting to go, but obviously things can be changed up,” Jeanne Smith told city commissioners Tuesday night.

Smith is co-owner of Main Street Market and a member of Spruce Up Warrenton. She has been the driving force behind the annual harvest festivals and several other downtown events.

She presented a drawing of what a park could look like in the vacant lot, which is directly behind City Hall and north of the building that houses Ohana Media and Soar With Us day care.

“We have this vision of putting a gazebo (there) … and having a community gathering place, maybe for weddings and concerts there in the future,” Spruce Up Director Brenda Hoxsey said. “That’s our vision, to spruce up that area.”

The group has received an offer for at least a partial donation of the gazebo, she said.

City leaders have pondered what to do with the lot, considered prime real estate. A parking lot, an apartment complex and a park all have been bandied about.

“I’m not opposed to this project in any way, other than it’s coming to us kind of out of the blue,” City Manager Linda Engbretson said. “I will say that personally, I see their vision. I like what they’re doing. Basically, we’d be creating a whole new park that’s not in any plan that we have.”

Commissioners listened to the group’s ideas. Most were encouraging, but cautious.

“We have a real hard time taking care of the parks we’ve already created,” Commissioner Mark Baldwin said.

The city does not have a parks department with separate staff dedicated toward mowing and maintenance.

“These projects look so simple, and they’re not,” Commissioner Rick Newton said. His Kiwanis Club was willing to put $50,000 toward a park splash pad for children, but there were too many reasons why he couldn’t make it happen, he said.

“This definitely needs to be vetted through the advisory process,” Mayor Henry Balensifer said. “I like your idea. Pitch it to the Parks Advisory Board and we’ll reconvene after we get a recommendation on that. We’re not turning this down per se, we just need to go through the regular process.”

A drawing of what the park could include

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