For years, Galen McBee Airport Park has been deteriorating in McMinnville, Oregon. That was until a group of local volunteers decided to restore the whimsical forested trails, and take care of one of the most unique public spaces in the Willamette Valley.
According to Oregon Live, Dean Klaus, a Sunrise Rotary Club member, read an article detailing the lack of funding the park had suffered leading to maintenance issues. McMinnville parks and recreation director Jay Pearson had said that the city hit an economic slump in 2008 and ever since it’s been hard to keep up with the maintenance of its sprawling park system. “I read it [the article] and I thought, ‘Man, what a sad story to put on a travel page,’” he told the News-Register. “And then I thought … any time there’s a problem, it’s an opportunity.”
So instead of begging the government to take action or raise taxes, Klaus gathered volunteers to help maintain the park. Klaus talked to fellow rotary club members, who agreed to adopt the park, and then spent the better part of a year cleaning it up. Volunteers gathered to re-surface trails, clean out culverts, replace signs, and patch up and re-paint the iconic mushroom house. They also got in touch with Galen McBee himself, McMinnville’s first parks director and airport manager, who served from 1968 to 1997, reported Oregon Live.
“I thought the park was named after a dead guy,” Sunrise Rotary president Denise Murphy said, gathered with Klaus and McBee at the park last week. “I’m not dead yet!” McBee, who is now 79 said laughing. While walking along the newly-refurbished trails, McBee walked the group through the history of the park.
It all started in World War II, [McBee] said, when the U.S. government offered to build a municipal airport in McMinnville. The resulting airfield butted up against a separate plot of land, which once had been logged and, for a time at least, had been used to store dynamite. Over the years, a roughly 21-acre plot of woods grew up there, and in the 1970s, inspectors with the Federal Aviation Administration told airport officials to remove a patch of the trees that were growing too tall, too close to the runway.
But that land was still private property, and the owner wasn’t interested in selling just a slice of it, McBee said. Instead, the man sold the city the entire plot of land, and after crews cut down the offending trees, city officials decided to turn the rest of it into a public park. –Oregon Live
City officials opened the park in 1977 and surprised McBee by naming it after him. “I felt honored,” McBee said. But in the years that followed, McMinnville’s population climbed, and the city’s parks department added 13 additional public parks without hiring more employees to manage them, McBee said. That lead to a deterioration of the nine fountains and the mushroom house.
As the city of McMinnville continues to grow, the 41-year-old park by the airport feels like it’s right out of our distant past. But the group of local volunteers who dedicated their time and energy to resurrecting Galen McBee Airport Park see a value in keeping it around. “We have the obligation to fulfill history,” Murphy said. “There are a lot of people who benefit from a little bit of work that we do.”
Voluntaryism in action just shows how much people can achieve when they come together for a common goal. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers, the Galen McBee Airport Park will soon be restored to its original glory – without force, violence, or coercion or theft money (taxation).
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Contributed by Dawn Luger of The Daily Sheeple.