The Cottage Grove City Council threw its support behind a Bohemia Park development project on Monday (Oct. 11) as it voted unanimously to authorize backing for a Competitive Tourism Grant application.
Bohemia Foundation, a local nonprofit organization, has requested to partner with the City of Cottage Grove to apply for the grant to fund capital improvements at Bohemia Park.
The nonprofit holds the title and ownership of Bohemia Park while the City of Cottage Grove is its partner in the park’s operation and maintenance through a 99-year lease designating the park for public use.
The Economic Development Administration (EDA) is currently accepting applications nationwide for EDA Competitive Tourism Grants under the American Rescue Plan Act’s Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation program.
In competitive grants, $240 million is available nationally to help communities which have been hardest hit by challenges facing the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sectors. The funds are meant for the investing in “infrastructure, workforce or other projects to support the recovery of the industry and economic resilience of the community in the future.”
The main thrust of the Bohemia Park project is improving Cottage Grove’s “premiere community park” entrance and so enhancing its connection to the community through better accessibility, cultural and historic awareness and active and passive activity centers for youth.
The project also aims to attract tourists and promote economic development in the center of the city.
The improvements will focus on the northern triangle of the park at the intersection of 10th and Main streets, taking advantage of the grassy, unused space on that side of the park, which has in the past been used to host carnivals.
The plans include a full-scale replica water tower with interactive water features, six stone pillars reflecting the five foundational topics of Bohemia Park and the area’s native American history, and an “art walk” through a local sculpture garden.
Bohemia Foundation’s EDA tourism grant request will be for $1 million towards a total project cost of $1.2 million. The city’s match of engineering and planning staff support, utility fees, and permit fees is estimated at $50,000.
During Monday’s meeting, Councilor Greg Ervin asked about the competitiveness of the grant and whether the project had legs absent grant funding.
Public Works and Development Director Faye Stewart said it was his understanding that around $52 million is available in the State of Oregon for this grant pool.
“Because the Bohemia Foundation is quite a ways down the road in the planning for this and also has the committed funds for this project, it’s going to make it very competitive,” he said, adding that the city was “feeling very optimistic” about getting the grant.
Bohemia Foundation has already been pledged $300,000 for the project. Stewart assessed it was likely that a considerable amount of the project will be under construction by next spring, regardless of whether or not the grant is awarded.
“So, we’ll see the project moving forward,” he said. “It may just take a little bit longer to get the total funding and get the project completed in its entirety.”
Councilor Chalice Savage asked whether the rounds of a redwood cut down this summer could be used in the park project.
In August this year, two redwood trees which were causing a nuisance to city infrastructure and the adjacent residence were removed from the corner of Chestnut Avenue and North G Street.
Among conditions for the trees’ removal, the logs are to be milled into lumber and used throughout the city for benches and other projects while the rounds of the stump of the larger redwood would be cut for use to memorialize the tree and its 100-plus-year history.
Stewart said that while it hasn’t been declared as part of the project, it’s “very possible” as the project contains plans for a walkway which could be used to display historical items and art.
Councilor Kenneth Roberts voiced his support for the project.
“I applaud it,” he said. “I think it makes our community more of a destination. I think it will help economic development and I really hope to get this grant so you can move forward.”
The enhancement of Bohemia Park is in accordance with several city plans including a long-range Master Plan approved 2008, which centered around the development of the park as an economic development and community asset.
It is also in alignment with the city’s 2003 Water to Woods: Master Parks Plan, as it adds “elements of cultural and historic awareness, local art, active and passive play to the park while enhancing tourist appeal, accessibility and economic potential.”
In other council news:
Following an annual performance review of City Manager Richard Meyers in executive session, the city council voted in regular session unanimously to amend the city manager’s agreement to include an additional four percent compensation adjustment, effective for the 2021-22 fiscal year (beginning July 1, 2021).
Department heads, non-represented employees and police unit employees received four precent COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) salary adjustments this year.
Cottage Grove City Council will perform an annual evaluation for Municipal Judge Martin Fisher prior to renewal of the judge’s contract, which expires Dec. 31, 2021.
Councilors considered whether to remove the “Not Applicable” option from the evaluation form as previous evaluations included a high number of such ratings. Ultimately, councilors decided to keep the rating option.
The evaluation will be held in executive session on Nov. 22 at 6 p.m. before the council’s regular session.
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