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Showcase park for Madras


   By Tony Ahern
   Publisher
   One of the most impressive aspects of the Madras area will be showcased over the next few weeks: Juniper Hills Park.
   When enjoying a jog or walk along that paved path outlining the park, taking in the wonderful sunset or mountain views, it's hard to imagine that this community gem took so much abuse when it was being considered a decade ago. Neighbors were sure it would de-value their property or draw large packs of unwanted loiterers. The CAVE people -- Citizens Against Virtually Everything -- hammered the county for spending a dime of public money on something as frivolous as a park.
   But thankfully this project persevered. The sagebrush flat the Bean Foundation donated to the community has evolved into a quiet oasis of rolling grass and trees. The paved exercise trails encircling the park surround a youth baseball/softball complex and newly developed soccer fields, thanks to the local Little League program and the recent multi-pronged effort behind the soccer project.
   Atop the eastern ridge of the Madras basin, the park is a tremendous vantage point to showcase our county seat. During July, hundreds of youth baseball players will be competing in two district all-star baseball tournaments at the baseball complex. Of course their families will be loitering in the park ... and in downtown restaurants, motels and other businesses during the tournaments.
   It's not hard to imagine Madras hosting some major soccer tournaments in the near future, utilizing the park and school fields. These tournaments can bring substantial economic benefits to a small town. Motels and restaurants should line up to sponsor these tourneys as they would reap hefty rewards.
   You still hear the occasional individual complaining about Juniper Hills -- almost always from someone who is against public funding of anything that has to do with parks and recreation. But the complaints are diminishing, and now mostly written off as crackpot-esque.
   Coming to Juniper Hills Park to take in a baseball tournament, enjoying some fine summertime weather and some big mountain views, is a great way to experience Madras.