Latest Memorial Park improvement no run-of-the-mill deal

The rejuvenation of Hillsboro’s Memorial Park is taking another noticeable leap forward with the planned addition of a miniature water-powered flour mill.

The old-style structure, which was being built by city employees on the east end of First Street, found its way to the park July 13 afternoon when they pulled it on wooden runners across a wheat field along Third Street and then south down Ash and Birch streets.

The prime mover behind the project-in more ways than one-is Martin Rhodes, Hillsboro’s building inspector and ordinance enforcement officer.

“When we took a vacation last month, we were up in central Oregon and I spotted an old mill,” he said. “I took 10 to 15 snapshots of that thing from all different angles. I came back and sized it down to about one third the size.”

Rhodes has been spearheading the ongoing effort to improve Memorial Park. To date, the project has included significant tree-trimming, the addition of park benches, model bridges and brick patios around existing shelter houses, and the start of a half-mile long brick walking path.

Rhodes said he thought a smaller replica of the Oregon mill would make an attractive addition to the park-if he could convince his bosses: City Administrator Steven Garrett and Mayor Delores Dalke.

“When you’re traveling down the road, you have a lot of time to think and plan your strategy and sales approach,” Rhodes said of the drive home from Oregon.

“I came back with all my pictures, and I sat down with Steve Garrett and told him what I wanted to do. He sat there and listened very patiently and then he said, ‘I like your idea, but you go talk to the mayor and see what she says about it.’

“So I just hot-footed it right over there. Delores listened to my story and she said, ‘Let’s go for it. I like it.'”

Construction began about two weeks ago. Rhodes said it will take another two weeks to finish it.

Once completed, the mini-mill will set just south of the Scout House. A meandering stream bed will be dug from the mill a few dozen yards down the hill to the east, where the water will gather in a catch basin equipped with two pumps that will create a double fountain.

A third pump will deliver the water back up to the mill. The mill will be equipped with a turning water wheel that will be powered by electricity.

“I was able to salvage all the pumps and motors I needed out of the old AMPI building, so we’re not out any expense,” Rhodes said. “We’re making this as low-budget as possible.”

He said plans call for the mill to be surrounded with the old Main Street bricks to create a patio-like area will visitors can watch and listen as the water passes over the wheel and makes its way down the hill.

Rhodes said he decided to drag the mill to the park before it was completed because the wheat field adjacent to the AMPI property along Third Street was being plowed, and he wanted to avoid having to move the mill across soft ground.

Rhodes and several city employees have provided the labor. The only other expense to the city has been about $1,500 in materials, he said.

The mill is not a playhouse, Rhodes said. It will have one working door to the interior, but the door will be locked.

Even so, Rhodes said he expects children to enjoy the mill in other ways.

“I don’t want to keep the kids from walking around on the bottom ramp,” he said. “Let them have fun with it.”

Rhodes added that he plans to build a 3-foot-high picket fence around the water-wheel area to keep children safely away from that part of the structure.

“It’s really been a fun project,” Rhodes said, and he believes it will contribute to the ongoing effort by the city to make Memorial Park more attractive to families.

“One woman told me that we’re making this park come alive,” he said. “I appreciate those words. That’s exactly what it is.”

To this point, he said the improvements have cost the city between $20,000 and $22,000, with the biggest expense by far being the new irrigation system that was added this spring.

Still on the docket, he said, are finishing the brick walking path, improving the south pond and planting more trees.

“I’ve had people ask me what’s next,” Rhodes said with a smile. “I say, ‘I don’t know, but when I think of it, I’ll tell you.'”

He said the response of the community to the improvements have been overwhelmingly positive.

“I have not had one negative comment at all,” Rhodes said.

But he declines to take the credit for the results.

“We couldn’t do any of this without the support of our city administrator and mayor and city council. I give them the credit for supporting what we’re doing.”

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