Council approves plans for work on the Gradin Sports Park and a remodel of Main City Park
by: Carole Archer, Surveyors Robert Walker, pictured, and Ron Poirier of Kent Cox and Associates in Gresham survey for the topographical map of the Gradin Sports Park, at 2303 S.E. Palmquist Road on Monday, Jan. 21.

By approving two master plans at their Tuesday, Jan. 22, meeting, Gresham City Councilors have potentially breathed new life into the beleaguered Gradin Sports Park and unearthed a new vision for the well-established Main City Park.

The Gradin Sports Park site was purchased by the city in1992, and a previous master plan was adopted in 2001, but initial development stalled. Today, the 32-acre site at Palmquist Road and Hogan Drive is a fenced-off moonscape covered with gravel mounds and dotted with scattered orange construction barriers.

The city of Gresham sign on the fence proclaims 'Future community sports field facility. We're growing with you!' But the sign is turning brown with rust and age, and a scrawl of graffiti says, 'Wow!'

Councilors hope the new master plan, which identifies Gradin Sports Park as one of six major priorities for the coming year, will change all that.

The latest master plan for the sports park shows a state-of-the-art recreational destination the city hopes will attract out-of-town tournaments and provide a home for local youth sports.

The game plan is ambitious, including four softball fields, two grass soccer fields and two artificial turf soccer fields, along with a 28,000-square-foot community fitness center, a skate park, horseshoe courts and numerous play structures. Total price tag: nearly $30 million.

Although the city previously discussed asking voters to approve a bond to pay for the park, the more likely scenario is that city funds will cover a fraction of the cost, and the rest will come through local partnerships.

The city will take up funding concerns at future meetings.

The current site is not much to look at, but Paul Truttman, a board member for Gresham Youth Sports Alliance, said a lot of work has already gone into the park's infrastructure. Most notably, the alliance marshaled volunteer labor and fundraising to install water and sewer lines.

'I think a lot of people think nothing is happening because most of our work was underground utility,' Truttman said. The average person doesn't understand how much site work has to be done.'

And there's much left to do. Truttman said the site hasn't been touched for more than a year, although this week surveyors were taking measurements for a topographical map of the park.

City staff members hope to see softball teams on the fields for the 2009 season.

Across town, Main City Park is also set for major improvements, albeit over a longer period of time. The redevelopment plan is set in three phases over 20 years and will cost about $8.4 million.

The first phase is set to begin in the summer 2009 and will include a skate park. Other near-term additions will include a playground, parking lots and restrooms. Over the next several years, the plan calls for construction of a plaza, south meadow and picnic shelter.

The final phase will include restoration of Johnson Creek, creek-side classrooms, an off-leash dog area and a walking trail.

Mayor Shane T. Bemis closed the Tuesday council meeting with a strong endorsement of the plan.

'It's exciting for our city. It makes me look back when I was growing up and was proud of Main City Park,' Bemis said. 'And this makes me proud of Main City Park again.'

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