Marys River Park sign
Marys River Park (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Marys River Park provides a number of amenities for residents and visitors — picnic facilities, a playground, a disc golf course, horseshoe pits and an open off-leash dog area. While those recreational options hold value, many love the park most for its walking paths and open natural areas.

As it turns out, that’s exactly what the park’s founders and the property owner who sold the land wanted for the 28 acres located down South 11th Street along the Marys River.

A founder’s statement written in July 1998 and signed by members of the Philomath 2000 Project stated that Betty Olson sold the property “with the understanding that this property would be left in its natural state as much as possible” with the exception of city buildings to be constructed along Applegate Street.

Sandy Heath, a member of the Philomath Park Advisory Board, wants to see the park renamed to reflect the original purpose. Heath is proposing an addition to the established name so it becomes known as Marys River Park and Natural Area.

“Over the recent past, we’ve seen a lot more traffic at the park, which is a good problem to have, but it also puts additional strain on the park’s condition and amenities,” Heath told the board. “I and others have expressed interest to provide our town parks with more natural areas that include a closer relationship with wildlife, ecosystems and a cultural connection.”

Board member Carol Leach believes it’s important to consider the name change.

“I have just watched a great deal of our camas bulb population be covered with gravel with the construction on 19th Street and it makes me very sad,” Leach said. “I know we have a natural planting of camas in that park and I don’t ever want to see it covered with gravel. I definitely will support this and get behind it 100%.”

Camas is a native plant that has grown in this region for centuries, thriving in natural areas like Marys River Park.

“I just want to make sure protection of that area continues,” Heath said. “I don’t want to see it mowed over and trashed 10 years from now.”

Although a few had questions, nobody participating in the meeting showed opposition to the idea and a motion passed unanimously for the recommendation to be taken to the City Council for a final decision.

In a separate issue involving Marys River Park, local resident and business owner Justin Wolford approached the board with an offer to make improvements to the disc golf course. Specifically, Wolford wants to make and install new signage to improve the playing experience.

“Current signage is very faded, there is no ‘you are here’ marker, there’s no real way to see where the road or the buildings are, so it’s very hard to get oriented,” Wolford said, referring to a full map of the course. “Additionally, in each of the tee-off areas, there’s no tee markers so you don’t actually know which hole you’re at once you’re on the course.”

Wolford proposed an engraved cedar map to replace the current faded one. It would be painted to denote the holes and landmarks in the park. The tee markers would be posts made out of pressure-treated wood. Also, a couple of smaller signs would be made to direct players which way to go between holes 6 and 7 and 7 and 8, two particular places where Wolford said it can get confusing on which way to continue play.

Wolford would donate the labor and only asked that the city pay for the materials. In a quote provided to City Manager Chris Workman, Wolford showed a total cost of $130 — $25 in cedar for the signs, $80 for the pressure-treated lumber for the tee markers and $25 for paint and other supplies.

Workman told the board that there was money in the budget to make those improvements.

There was some discussion about possibly holding off on such a project in case the board wanted to look at the bigger picture of what to do with the future of the disc golf course.

In December, another resident offered to head up an effort to improve the course’s tee pads at his own expense. That individual could not be reached but Wolford said there would be no problem if tee pad improvements were made at a later date after the tee markers were installed.

“I think it’s a great idea and I appreciate citizens stepping up and volunteering so much effort to improve this,” Leach said. “It’s wonderful to have this kind of stuff going on in our community.”

The board approved the proposal on a unanimous vote.

In other news out of the Sept. 9 meeting:

• The board discussed Music in the Park, including the possibility of paying bands. Although no decisions were made with several months to put thought into those questions, the board appeared to be leaning toward settling on a consistent payment amount to be offered to each band and then finding sponsors ahead of time for each date. The board also talked about changing the Sunday concert times from 2-4 p.m. possibly to 6-8 p.m., to remain consistent with the Thursday concert times and to escape summertime afternoon heat. Workman mentioned that he would talk to Public Works about the possible planting of shade trees, although it would be a number of years before the tree canopy would be effective.

• The board expressed the desire to move forward with plans to construct Paul J. Cochran Veterans Memorial Park after reviewing separate neighborhood and community surveys and learning of a grant opportunity. “I think it’s pretty important to keep this as a priority for the benefit of the family and their generosity for giving us this and what they wanted us to use it for was a veterans park,” board chair Dale Collins said, a sentiment echoed by members Heath, Leach and Rose Bricker. The park will be located on the corner of College Street and North 16th Street. Workman recommended that the board hold a meeting to be dedicated to design of the park while also reaching out to stakeholders and the public

• Bricker, who has proposed the addition of a dog park in Philomath, suggested that a possible site could be located on the east end of Philomath City Park. However, she said Public Works indicated that it would not be a very good spot based on projected costs, flooding of the space and parking limitations. The idea remains alive with further discussion expected in the future.

Following is a list of votes taken by the Philomath Park Advisory Board at its Sept. 9 meeting:
• To approve minutes from the board’s Aug. 12 meeting. Motion: None. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Bricker, Collins, Elliott, Heath, Leach; Absent—Unema, Young).
• To submit to the City Council for approval a recommendation to change the name of Marys River Park to “Marys River Park and Natural Area.” Motion: Leach. Seconded: Heath. Vote: Passes 4-0 (Yes—Bricker, Collins, Heath, Leach; Absent—Elliott, Unema, Young).
• To approve a proposal to install new signage at the Marys River Park disc golf course with labor to be donated. Motion: Leach. Seconded: Bricker. Vote: Passes 4-0 (Yes—Bricker, Collins, Heath, Leach; Absent—Elliott, Unema, Young).