ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Even though enduring spring-like temperatures are still a ways off according to the calendar, Hillsboro officials are already thinking intently about spending some quality time at Memorial Park as soon as they can.
To work, not to play.
Park improvements begun this past summer will continue as soon as weather permits, they say.
At a special Wednesday meeting, the Hillsboro City Council agreed to spend “not over $32,000” to install water spinklers in Memorial Park and at the Sports Complex.
The addition of irrigation is key to making both recreational areas more inviting to the public, according to City Administrator Steven Garrett.
“As we we’re doing things in the park last summer, we noticed we have a serious weed problem,” Garrett said.
In order to achieve a healthy and inviting stand of grass that can keep out weeds-and to keep new trees growing and green-irrigation will be required, Garrett said.
At the Sports Complex, the grassy area between fields hasn’t been healthy enough to keep the ground from becoming extremely rough, uneven and ultimately dangerous for walking.
“That’s been a long-term frustration for a lot of people,” Garrett said. “About every year we have at least one person who’s minding their own business and falls and twists and ankle.
“The recreation commission is really interested in seeing (the complex) used on daily basis and during the day,” he added. “It’s a great, safe place for kids to go. An improved lawn and more trees will give it a more park-like feel.”
In both areas, irrigation should make a huge difference, Garrett said. He hopes that by watering all of Memorial Park, more of that area will be used, too.
“We saw lot of use in the upper part of the park by the shelter house and the new playground, but we have this whole other side of the park that is used less-partly because it’s not quite as grassy and attractive as the rest of it,” he said.
“We want to provide a good park experience.”
Trees are another issue at both recreational areas. The ones in Memorial Park are, for the most part, “old and probably toward the autumn of their years,” Garrett said.
Having healthy trees is important for more than one reason, he added.
“They provide a real necessary barrier from the sun, but also from oncoming golf balls. As the trees disappear, so does our screen for golf balls,” he said. “In order to make the trees stay, we need to provide water to them. It’s really an important piece of keeping the park what it is.”
The Sports Complex, meanwhile, has few trees to offer protection from the hot summer sun. Planting more trees and keeping them healthy with irrigation should make a difference there, too, Garrett said.
Already taking shape at Memorial Park is the three-quarter-mile walking trail made from the old Main Street bricks.
Garrett said all of the estimated 70,000 bricks needed to complete the trail are already cleaned. Now it’s just a matter of laying out the trail.
Likewise, wooden benches and bridges have already been built for Memorial Park. Plans also call for additional lighting along the south outside edge of the park and a pole-and-rock fence between the golf course and the east edge of the park.
Garrett said progress continues to be made and even the laying of the brick pathway won’t take long once city workers find the time to get to it.
And therein lies the primary obstacle to a quick “finish” for the entire project.
Garrett said park improvements are important, but they aren’t the top priority for the city.
“This is going to be a long-term project,” Garrett said. “It will always be second on the list-which is better than being eighth or ninth on the list like it used to be.
“Every day we have little crises that we have to address, but this is one of those jobs that when you have the time, you can come in and make pretty good time as you go,” he said.
Garrett added that the park projects probably won’t be “done” in the near future because the city plans to keep making improvements through the years.
“This is a first step,” he said. “Each year we want to do a little something more-and as a funds become available we will do more.”