HERMISTON — Before North Park became Greenwood Park, few people in Hermiston knew it existed.
“I didn’t even know about it until a friend said, ‘North Park needs some help,’ and I was like, ‘Where’s North Park?’” mayor David Drotzmann said.
The half-acre park in an out-of-the-way neighborhood on Beech Avenue had a grand reopening Thursday after the city worked with neighbors and service clubs to transform it. What was once a small, run-down half basketball court next to a metal merry-go-round and swing set is now a collection of brand new playground equipment, benches and shelter surrounded by landscaping, decorative fencing and a stone wall.
“This was a park that needed a little care, needed a little love and care, and I’m proud of the community for stepping up,” Drotzmann said.
The park was renamed Greenwood Park after Greenwood Luster, a pastor who spearheaded creation of the original park decades ago. His granddaughter Jackie Linton, who lives in Greenwood’s former house across from the park, was a driving force behind the renovation.
She said she was sure her grandfather, who died in 2010 at the age of 87, would have been moved to tears to know the park had been restored and renamed after him.
“He was just crazy about Hermiston,” she said.
Greenwood was a Baptist deacon and later became pastor of the Church of God. He worked for Union Pacific and Sanitary Disposal, where Linton said he was the type of person to go up and get the trash from elderly customers who forgot to put it out on the curb.
He worked with the Hermiston Jaycees to get a small park built in his neighborhood in the 1970s, but over the decades it fell into disrepair.
Linton and other neighbors worked with the city to redesign the park and get donations from the Lions and Kiwanis clubs. Parks and recreation director Larry Fetter said the park was “a very tired and worn down park” before.
“There were a lot of discussions,” he said. “In the end I think what we have is a really child-centered and family-centered facility.”
He said the parks staff did a great job of getting the park ready in time, despite also dealing with one Hermiston park damaged by flooding and another playground destroyed by fire within a few weeks of each other.
He said Linton, who lives next to the park, had his cellphone number and was a great built-in guardian and security system for Greenwood Park.
Linton said her grandson had been asking her for months when the new playground would be ready and was thrilled when she told him Thursday was the day. He and a dozen other children wasted no time testing out the new equipment, particularly the new merry-go-round that neighbors had insisted needed to be part of the design.
“They’re so excited today,” Linton said.