Oregon City breaks ground on construction of memorial park
Commemorating the construction of Oregon City's 9-acre Tyrone S. Woods Memorial Park could have easily drawn hundreds of people to the celebration, but it was a small group of people wearing protective face masks who joined in a subdued groundbreaking ceremony on Friday.
The park is named for the 1989 Oregon City High School graduate who perished in Benghazi on Sept. 12, 2012, while defending U.S. citizens on a diplomatic mission. Woods Memorial Park was named after a city-sponsored poll showed overwhelming support for the name.
Although groundbreaking events for public projects are typically open to the community, the city limited its Friday, May 29, honored guest list to fewer than 25 people to maintain the governor's orders limiting gathering sizes and to maintain physical distance between attendees. In attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony were elected representatives of Oregon City, members of the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, Veterans of Foreign Wars Three Rivers Post 1324 members and construction contractors.
Woods' mother Cheryl Croft Bennett, who was also in attendance at the park groundbreaking, said she appreciated how much the citizens of Oregon City and across the country have "respected my son for his sacrifice."
A master plan for 7 acres of the park, at 14491 S. Glen Oak Road, includes winding looped pathways, open lawn areas, a picnic shelter, benches, a nature playground and a fenced off-leash dog park, and is anticipated to be completed by October. Subsequent construction phases in the remaining 2 acres are planned to include pickleball courts and skate amenities.
Woods, a native Oregonian, was a state champion wrestler for OCHS before he served his country as a U.S. Navy SEAL. Tyrone perished in Benghazi on Sept. 12, 2012, while serving with the CIA defending American lives.
"This park will provide him (Woods) the recognition that he deserves and honors his legacy. The park will be enjoyed by students of the nearby high school where kids can see that they can do something with their life that matters and make a difference," said DJ Ruger of the VFW Three Rivers Post 1324. "I look forward to the future commemoration celebration where we can all enjoy this jewel of our community and recognize Tyrone for his contribution to our freedom."
Attendees wanted the focus to be on honoring Woods, not on escalating costs or project delays that have been discussed in previous news articles. The budget for the completion of Woods Memorial Park was originally estimated at $1,981,563, with $496,685 coming from Oregon Lottery funds originally awarded in 2017. The park is now projected to cost $2.6 million.
Ruger said VFW is halfway through its fundraising goal of $35,000 for the design, fabrication, installation, and maintenance of a permanent stone memorial, flagpole and lighting at the park. Fundraising for the Woods memorial had slowed when the city announced construction delays, but Ruger expects that the groundbreaking will "really kick start our fundraising now that this is really getting going." Donations to the Tyrone S. Woods Memorial account are accepted at all Wells Fargo banks or online at http://vfw1324.org/park.
Ruger said Post 1324 just completed another successful fundraising campaign that raised tens of thousands of dollars in the couple of weeks before Memorial Day, defying expectations for raising money for veterans' causes during the pandemic. Oregon City's Fred Meyer store, normally the top store for Post 1324's annual poppy drive, was closed to the VFW's efforts, but BiMart, Market of Choice, Albertsons and Safeway welcomed the VFW volunteers.
"Safeway really stepped up to help," Ruger said. "We called our members who were more at risk for contracting COVID and told them not to come."
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