New park on .4 acre property was approved in early 2016

It has been nearly a year since the West Linn City Council approved a proposal for a "pocket park" at 21395 Willamette Drive, and progress on that front has been slow — but steady.

According to Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester, much of the City's efforts have centered on dealing with the abandoned home on the site — which is slightly more than 1/3" acre — and must be cleared out before park planning can begin. And the home cannot be demolished without first evaluating whether it had any historic significance that requires preservation.

TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: LESLIE PUGMIRE HOLE - The City must wait for an evaluation from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) on the property before proceeding with plans for a pocket park.

The property and circa 1935 home were formerly owned by Sally McLarty, whose grandfather acquired the land after emigrating from Ireland.

"We basically conducted a historical analysis and review, and consultants are recommending not to have it eligible (for a historic designation)," Worcester said. "If SHPO (the State Historic Preservation Office) agrees, we can take it down. ... Once we get SHPO clearance, they can either require mitigation or agree there is no impact, but either way we can proceed with taking it down."

Mitigation would essentially require the City to acknowledge the property's historic significance in the aftermath of demolition by placing interpretative signs or other markers where the home stood. But if SHPO concurs with the City's consultant, that will not be necessary according to Worcester.

The property, which lies in the Bolton area between Willamette Drive and Caufield Street, was first acquired by the City in 2002 with a future park in mind. The acquisition came at the behest of Mayor David Dodds after the property was foreclosed by Clackamas County due to unpaid property taxes. The total cost of a clean-up at the abandoned home was estimated at about $62,000.

Not much happened with property after that, until last year when a group of residents in the area felt the property would be the ideal home for a small nature park — it has been listed as a goal in the Bolton neighborhood plan since 2006 — and the City Council agreed, in large part because of an ultimatum from the county stating that West Linn could either find a public use for the property or give it up.

Now, in the absence of a ruling from SHPO, the City is in a holding pattern. But Worcester said that should soon change.

"It will be a couple weeks before we know from SHPO," he said. "And then we can take the house down and start on a plan (for the park)."

By Patrick Malee
Assistant Editor, West Linn Tidings
Pamplin Media Group
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