Ralston Park master plan designs completed, to go to council

Meetings of the Ralston Park Improvement Plan Ad Hoc Committee this year have resulted in the design of a park master plan that landscape architecture and design firm Stangeland & Associates, Inc. will present the City Council next month.

The committee, made up of interested residents of Lebanon and city staff, have discussed concerns and expectations for improving Ralston Park, and the designers have presented their own analysis of the park.

Concerns raised have centered mostly on safety at the park, which is said to attract people who present a sense of threat, such as drug use and transient loitering. Observations about the park’s strengths centered around the Christmas celebration, concerts and weddings, and potential to be a family friendly place to visit.

The first thing the committee wants to do is tear down the old gas station that sits at the southwest corner of the park. They noted the building is not only an eyesore, but it also takes up a large portion of the park, blocks the view of the park, and is underutilized.

By removing it, grassy areas can be expanded, and the view of Ralston from Oak Street and Highway 20 will be vastly improved.

One of the main design features the committee and designers want to include at Ralston is a bridge across the canal that bisects the park, which would connect the northwest portion of the park to the southeast portion.

They feel the park is underutilized because it is split by the canal.

If a bridge is approved, the committee expressed interest in a wide bridge that would be useful for event photographs and be iconic to the City of Lebanon.

The committee also approved an idea to connect Ralston Park to its newest little pocket park addition on the north end by blocking through traffic at East Maple Street and Highway 20.

To accomplish this, Stangeland & Associates are designing a proposal that turns a portion of East Maple into grass so that the main part of the park flows naturally into the addition.

Additionally, it has been suggested that the pocket addition might be a good location for a tree to be used for the annual Christmas tree lighting.

That’s because there are three trees in the park identified as unhealthy and possibly in need of removal, one of them being the large cedar that is used every year for the Christmas tree lighting.

“The top is rotten,” said Jason Wiliams,  city maintenance services director. “We keep losing pieces at the top, so we’re cutting them down before they fall down. We’re already at a diameter at the top of the tree that if we take any more out, we’ll get too large a diameter, which will just flat kill it.”

Discussions also involved:

  • Increased lighting and decreased blind spots throughout the park to improve safety;
  • Installing a splash pad and interactive art for kids;
  • Creating a space for food trucks;
  • Installing more ADA-compliant pathways, more seating and an amphitheater;
  • Strengthening the embankments of the canal, and implementing the canal as a central, attractive scheme of the park;
  • Erecting a monument for first responders and veterans;
  • The need for more pathways to encourage use of the park;
  • Moving the bus stop to a different location; and
  • Christmas lighting. Committee members expressed interest in using less-obtrusive lights for Christmas decorations during the month of December. They noted the LED lights are too bright and may not be very appealing to some in the community.

Other ideas included installation of a good sound system, bike racks, more parking, and safe street crossing.

The Ralston Park Improvement Plan Ad Hoc Committee consists of Christina Untiet, Matt Cowart, Deanna Bowser, Tre Kennedy, Jason Bolen, Gary Marks, Jason Williams and Ron Whitlatch. They expect to present the design proposal for approval to the City Council in May.