Residents of Tigard soon can look forward to the opening of a new city park, accessible to all — that is, accessible to all on evenings and weekends.
The city of Tigard and the Tigard-Tualatin School District are partnering to turn school fields and playgrounds into parks open to the public outside of school hours. After a few years of negotiations and risk assessments, the city and the district now are moving forward on turning Metzger Elementary School's field into a park.
Metzger is the first school to be a part of this project, but it likely won't be the last.
"The Metzger field, which was really in need of maintenance and is under-utilized for what it could be — it was determined that that would be the first one of the fields that we would work on, and become a pilot for the project," said Kenny Asher, community development director for the city of Tigard.
Asher and his team have already met with community members to develop design ideas, and received letters from Metzger teachers and students about what they'd like to see go into their field, which will soon be known as Metzger School Park.
"We haven't done a lot of parks planning in this city," Asher said. "We tend to buy land and fix it up, without having a community process … here, we really wanted to reach out to the community and let them take the lead in figuring out how this space should be developed."
Most of the ideas for the city's plan came directly from community members, Asher said. Those ideas include an artificial turf soccer field, a picnic shelter, an amphitheater, a community garden and more. The city is partnering with SupaFresh, a local organization that operates community gardens, and they may include a community oven in the picnic area.
Although the district and the city are equal partners in this project, no district funds will go toward transforming Metzger's field into a public park. The city is in the process of applying for a Community Development Block Grant (which uses federal dollars but is allocated by local government) to pay for benches, a walking path and other features. It also is working to open an account that will accept private donations for features not covered by the grant, which include the artificial turf soccer field.
The city plans to use the same community design and funding process for future school field-to-park projects, though they won't all look the same or include the same details.
"The idea is, over time, to do this very thing at other schools," Asher said. "This is the first one, and what would likely happen at each of the schools would be different."
To learn more about what the city has planned for Metzger's field, visit http://www.tigard-or.gov/community/metzger_school_park.php.