The word of the day on Tuesday was amazement, because that’s the state people were in after seeing the new Highland Park in Cosmopolis.
The park is just off the 1200 block of Franklin Drive, where there are also several free parking spots. Dundee Drive is on the other side of the park.
Darrin Raines, Cosmopolis’ city administrator, talked about what the renovation to the park meant to him during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the park. The park features swingsets — with ADA features, other playground equipment, exercise machines, a pickleball court and a basketball court.
“For a kid who grew up near this park, this hits home for me,” Raines said to the group of about 60 people who celebrated Highland Park’s official opening.
The dedication, on a hot day when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, continued on toward the hoisting of the American Flag and the POW/MIA flag in the southwest corner of the park. Four Veterans of Foreign Wars representatives, in their dress uniforms, ensured to hoist the flags without incident. It was as if their commanding officers were standing by to inspect.
Tyler Marriott, Navy veteran from Elma VFW Bill Mann Post 1948, seemed impressed as he stood near the flag pole. Marriott was one of the veterans who hoisted the flags onto the pole that Veterans Affairs (VA) donated and installed.
“It looks like a great park,” Marriott said.
Linda Springer, one of the main drivers for the park renovation, gave ownership to the community. She cut the ribbon with Jeff Nations, the city’s public works superintendent.
“This is our park,” Springer said. “Without volunteers and donors, this could not be done.”
There was substantial funding — approximately $330,000, according to Springer — needed to make the park happen. The total includes a $60,000 match from the city of Cosmopolis. Grays Harbor Community Foundation (GHCF) invested $40,000 for upgrades to the park, according to Jessica Hoover, senior program officer for GHCF. According to the foundation, the community is “lucky” to have people like Springer “who take the steps necessary to bring ideas to action.”
But as Springer pointed out, it was the time the community members spent laying the dirt, the wood chips on the playground and installing the new equipment throughout the area.
“Without the volunteers and donors, this could not be done,” Springer said.
Raines remembered the park when he was a boy. The park included the yellow swingset that still remains in the northeast corner of the park. Raines said it’s been there for “at least” 36 years.
After Springer’s address and after the flags were hoisted, it was time to eat. That was Bob Smith’s time to shine. Smith is president of Cosmopolis Lions Club. He grilled 60 hot dogs for the guests in attendance on his dark green, lump charcoal grill. Like so many other people, Smith’s opinion on the park and Tuesday’s dedication was positive.
“It’s amazing,” Smith said. “Lots of people showed up. Good food, good friends, good deal.”
Nearby, parents were enjoying the hot day with their young children. Jessica James was with her one-year-old daughter Emily and her four-year-old son Henry. Already enjoying the time with her children, she praised the renovation to the park.
“We love it,” James said. “We live on the other hill and we come here all the time. We play pickleball and the teenagers like the green sit and spin. It’s a lot of fun.”
Stacie Barnum, Aberdeen’s parks and recreation director, was on hand to see the park.
“Isn’t this park beautiful?” Barnum said. “This is much needed in this community. Linda and her team and the city of Cosmopolis have done an amazing job.”
Sydney Newbill, Aberdeen City Council candidate, was also in attendance. She held one side of the ribbon.
“I think it was very special,” Newbill said. “I think that Susan (Ancinch) getting to do that was incredibly special because her kids grew up here. And her daughter actually helped install some of the new toys on the playground. This was a huge community project with involvement from small corporations like the Cosi Petal Pushers all the way up to the T-Mobile store. Watching it come to fruition was special.”
Ancinch was there on behalf of Greater Grays Harbor Inc. On Wednesday morning, Ancinch, who carried the oversized red ceremonial scissors to the ribbon-cutting, aimed any praise right at Springer.
“She is the lady that made all of that happen,” Ancinch said. “She worked so hard. And it does look so nice.”
Darryl Druzianich, who helped donate land to the city for more parks just a few months ago, was enjoying one of the wooden benches near the pickleball and basketball court.
“It’s a beautiful day, amazing spring day,” Druzianich said. “It took a lot of thought from a lot of people.”
Springer was sitting by Druzianich as they were taking in the sun near a couple people who were playing pickleball. She added a short story about the park and one of the people who used it a lot this past winter.
“There was a woman in a hat and scarf who came out here when it was freezing,” Springer said, noting they were there using the exercise equipment.
Over at the green picnic tables, quite a few people sat and ate the provided lunch. Numerous homemade sides, including potato salad, baked beans and other dishes, plus a few sweet treats, lay on the tables. Cosi Petal Pushers dished out the spread to the long line of park guests. One of the park guests was Mabel Buchanan.
“I’ve lived up here a long time,” Buchanan said. “What (Springer’s) done is like a miracle to the park.”
Buchanan remembers what the park was like in 1979.
“There wasn’t much here but swings, a teeter-totter and a merry-go-round,” Buchanan said. “And it wasn’t maintained well by the city.”
Buchanan said she used to push her grandkids on the yellow swingset and they played on whatever else was there. She said at that time the city didn’t have the money to keep it up very well.
Cosmopolis Mayor Kyle Pauley expressed his feelings on the work at Highland Park and why it was needed.
“For the past few years, children have had to take a lot more stress from the COVID-19 pandemic than anyone and that extends to the city’s ability to improve local parks with the current budget,” Pauley said. “The city could not be more appreciative of Linda and the Friends of Highland Park to take initiative to seek the grants that give local kids and their parents a park that they deserve.”
Pauley’s “sincere hope” is additional funding will be available to improve all parks throughout Cosmopolis.
“But for the foreseeable future it will take grant funding to pay for improvements and employee time to create a safer and more vibrant parks inventory in Cosmopolis,” Pauley said.
It’s clear the work was worth it as people continued to be in awe Tuesday over the sight of the neighborhood park. Frank Chestnut, from Cosmopolis Lions Club, was one of those people.
“This is a wonderful renovation to this park,” Chestnut said. “Folks who live here got a look, saw the deplorable condition and thought ‘let’s get started.’”
The collaboration between the community and the city impressed Chestnut, who was helping “grillmaster” Smith and Dave Palmer with the food preparation.
“It’s citizen activism and volunteerism at its best,” Chestnut said.