While the nation pays tribute Nov. 11 to America’s soldiers in recognition of Veterans Day, the construction of a special park dedicated to those who served continues on the corner of College and North 16th streets in Philomath.
The park could be finished and open sometime this spring to complete a process that started in October 2019 when the city accepted the donation of the lot from the estate of the late Beverly Durham. The transfer occurred with the condition that the property be developed as a city park and named in memory of the son she lost during the Vietnam War.
“It’s finally getting to the point where we start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” Garry Black, Philomath Public Works operations supervisor, said about the construction of Paul J. Cochran Veterans Memorial Park. “We still have a lot of work to do but I mean when Mayor Eric Niemann brought it up years ago, it seemed like a far-fetched thing but it’s happening.”
Black himself is among the community’s veterans, serving in the Oregon Army National Guard for 26 years, which included an 18-month deployment to Iraq.
“I fully appreciate that the city is doing this for all the veterans and their families,” Black said. “Being a veteran is quite an honor as part of this country and as part of this community.”
Black couldn’t pinpoint a date for its completion but said “I would definitely think in the spring time frame — April at the latest, I’m really hopeful.”
Construction activity at the park site got started in recent weeks with ground work. Black said all concrete has now been poured and in place for things like the gazebo.
“Next week, as long as things are forgiving, we’re planning on starting the playground installation,” Black said, the equipment to be installed by the Public Works crew.
The playground will include a “unity dome” climbing structure, swings and a spinner. The Philomath City Council decided at its Oct. 9 meeting to move forward with an ADA-accessible engineered material for the playground’s fall surface.
“There might be a time where the park actually looks like it’s done but we’ll still be waiting on the (playground) fall material … which could take up to six weeks to get installed,” Black said.
The park’s three featured flagpoles have also been installed to fly the American flag, Oregon flag and the POW/MIA flag.
“Even though the park is not complete, I’m going to have my weekend guy put them up on Saturday morning,” Black said.
The process of getting a memorial ordered and in place also continues.
“There were still some final decisions that needed to be made on the plinths,” Black said. “I don’t think they’ve been ordered yet because there’s still some discussion on the final design.”
Work involving a couple of apple trees on the property could also remain.
“When you have apple trees, it attracts yellowjackets and stuff so I think we need to make a decision,” Black said. “I was in there the other day and one of them is right there on the northwest corner dropping apples right up against where the playground is going to be, which could not be good for kids and people.”
Black said trees that don’t bear fruit would probably be a good solution but added that he’s aware of some conversation about leaving certain trees in place for the family and that “it’s not a done discussion.”
The city has avoided having fruit trees in its other parks to avoid the possible hazard related to yellowjackets.
“There is still landscaping that needs to be done,” Black added, who was planning to meet this week with an Eagle Scout candidate about his ideas.