Site of Paul J. Cochran Veterans Memorial Park
The lot on the corner of North 16th and College is now empty after last summer’s removal of a house that was sitting on it. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath Park Advisory Board plans to begin reaching out to residents living in the North 16th Street vicinity in the near future about what they want to see in a neighborhood park. The property on the corner of North 16th and College will also serve as a veterans memorial park and carry the name of Paul J. Cochran.

The property was donated to the city by the late Beverly Durham, who died in August 2018. The gift did come with conditions, including that it would serve as a memorial to the son she lost in Vietnam in 1968.

City Manager Chris Workman said that in his opinion, he believes the park should have some typical amenities beyond the veterans section, such as a pavilion where someone could picnic or have a birthday party and a few pieces of traditional playground equipment, such as swings and maybe a slide.

The park is approximately one-eighth of an acre in size, which would require some creative planning on how to use the space.

“I’d like to hear from the neighborhood on what types of park amenities they’d like to see as a neighborhood park and a second thing we’d want to know from the veterans and larger community, if this is the veterans war memorial park, what are the types of things that you’d like to see in that regard?” Workman said. “And then we’ve got to mesh those two things together.”

A year ago at this time, the Park Advisory Board approved a motion to categorize a North 16th Street neighborhood park as a Priority 1 project. The city was also at the time finalizing an application for an Oregon Heritage grant, made available through the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department “for the construction or restoration of veterans and war memorials.”

However, the coronavirus pandemic hit and state grant programs were put on hold with none awarded. Workman said those grant programs are also on hold this year.

Workman said there have been conversations that could lead to the involvement of the Timber Framers Guild and the construction of a pavilion.

“They like to do projects in communities where they volunteer time and expertise on these types of projects,” Workman said. “We’d probably have to look at getting some supplies donated.”

Workman said the city could commit some funds toward the less-expensive items through system development charges earmarked for parks. As indicated, the park is in the Park Master Plan and is also on the capital project list. Workman said he’s not sure how certain parts of the project would be prioritized, but it could be on the table as a discussion item.

Back when the city was applying for a grant, a schematic was created that suggested a possible design.

“I think it’s doable to do both,” Workman said in reference to a veterans memorial and a recreational area. “Right now, the concept is something that was come up by a couple of people. We really want to hear from the neighborhood and community about what they want there.”

Workman said the city does want to involve Cochran family members as they move through the process and make decisions.

Can the space accommodate both the veterans and recreational areas?

“If you design the park well, the people that are there for the veterans memorial stuff are going to naturally go to those areas,” Workman said. “And the neighborhood kids that are there to go swing and stuff, they’re going to be over there doing their thing and hopefully not be disrupting each other. It’s in the design.”

The board and city manager appeared to settle on a plan to distribute details to neighborhood residents about the survey with door hangers. The residents could either respond through an online survey specific to them or fill out a physical survey.

After collecting information from those folks, the city would then open up a survey to the rest of the community.

“That way we’re collecting all of the data, but we’ve got two data sets — one from the neighborhood that we know is really just the neighbors, and then the second one that’s going to be more inclusive of everybody,” Workman explained.

That approach, he added, would help the city identify differences or similarities between what the neighborhood wants and what others in town outside of that immediate area are suggesting.

In general, the area considered to be in the neighborhood park would run from north of Main Street to the railroad tracks and east-west from North 19th to North 12th.

Workman planned to work on a survey and then get feedback from the park board for recommendations and tweaks. He hopes to have it finalized in time for the board’s Feb. 11 meeting. At that time, a decision could be made on when to distribute it.

In other news from last week’s Park Advisory Board meeting:

• In an update about the Parks Master Plan process, Workman said the consultant was looking at current facilities while developing questions for a survey on wants and needs. The city anticipates seeing a draft version of the survey within the next few weeks. The process would then move forward toward stakeholder interviews and other outreach.

• The board discussed moving forward with plans to host the Music in the Park concert series this summer. See separate story.