Bill Riegel Park to reopen this month with improvements

Bill Riegel Park is set to reopen on Nov. 21 with several new features, including a new paved path around the park, new picnic tables, benches and bike racks.

The park, located in the Southeast Mill Creek neighborhood, has been closed and under construction since July. The latest changes complete the second and final phase of an improvement project that began over a decade ago.

“The goal of the project was to provide a variety of improvements that could be enjoyed by the neighborhood. These improvements were identified from several years of community outreach on the part of our Parks Planning staff. We’re excited for the park to reopen and for the new amenities to be enjoyed by the neighborhood,” said Trevor Smith, a city spokesman, in an email.

The total project cost $740,000 including constriction, equipment, staff support and electrical service, according to Smith. 

The 4 acre neighborhood park, near Miller Elementary School, serves around 1,300 residents including several nearby apartment complexes. The city purchased the land in 1996, but didn’t develop it until the first phase of the project.

Cory Poole, Southeast Mill Creek Neighborhood Association chair, described the surrounding neighborhood as an island bounded by State Highway 22, Southeast Cordon Road and Southeast Lancaster Drive.

“Before Bill Riegel Park was built, there was really no alternative. There was nowhere for kids in that neighborhood to go to play and families to take their kids or walk their dogs,” Poole said. “I anticipate that neighborhood will probably get denser in years to come. And so having Bill Riegel Park in the area will only help that.”

The first phase, completed in 2012, was funded by a grant from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. That phase added a concrete walking path, a playground for younger kids, a drinking fountain, bench and a line of trees. Neighborhood donations and a matching city grant built a 3-point basketball court.

The latest improvements include a new irrigation system with better sprinkler coverage and a controller that can be operated remotely, to reduce the park operation and maintenance needs. 

The latest construction will also add a second playground and a picnic shelter to the park.

The park was originally set to reopen by the end of October, but was delayed by supply chain issues, according to the city. As a result, the picnic shelter won’t be delivered until early next year.

This phase of the project was funded by Park System Development Charges, which are work plan review and permit fees collected by Public Works, according to the press release.

Poole said it was a long process to get the park developed, and that he’s grateful that Salem Parks sought the additional improvements.

“It took a lot of stop and go incidences to finally get the park built, so we are so excited to see it moving closer to its kind of final goal,” he said. “While it’s still not fully built out in our opinion, it is making good strides and the city has been very good about, when funding becomes available, utilizing it to get Bill Riegel Park closer to that final development goal.”

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.