As the sun started casting filigreed shadows through Randall Park on a Friday evening, Yakima resident Ivonne Hernandez watched her 2-year-old daughter chasing ducks and geese and smiled.
“She loves the ducks,” Hernandez said in Spanish, pausing to strap her 4-month-old daughter into a stroller.
Hernandez said she often brings her children to the park. She also walks the newly paved paths in the mornings. Randall Park is a special place for her young family — a safe place where she and her children can enjoy nature and each other.
Hernandez is not alone in her love of the park, which covers more than 40 acres south of Nob Hill Boulevard between 44th and 48th avenues.
District 7 Councilwoman Holly Cousens said that the park is an asset for her district and the entire city. It provides a gathering place for families, social groups and individuals to feed ducks, play basketball, connect with nature and play outdoors.
“Many community members have reached out to me over my tenure in office regarding the park, and the overall consensus is that they are delighted with the upgrades that have taken place,” Cousens said. “The upgrades make it a fun and safe environment for all to enjoy.”
Two anonymous donations of $150,000 for improvements to the park in 2013 started a chain of events that led to more than $1 million in improvements to the park over the past three years.
Additions to the park include new picnic shelters, playground equipment, basketball courts, restrooms, signage and fencing, and the wildlife observation deck. Other improvements included rebuilding park walkways, repairing the two parking lots, removing sediment and deepening the duck pond, and installing a bridge.
On Tuesday afternoon, city officials and Parks and Recreation staff gathered on the wildlife observation deck to commemorate the park’s grand re-opening.
“With the community’s support, Randall Park is once again a jewel and major asset for the city of Yakima,” said Parks and Recreation Manager Ken Wilkinson.
A community project
Wilkinson said the improvements to the park were made possible through a $500,000 grant from the state’s Recreation and Conservation Office and $600,000 in local donations and matching funds.
Three Rotary clubs — Southwest Rotary, Downtown Yakima Rotary and Sunrise Rotary — the West Valley Kiwanis Club and Lions Club of Yakima contributed more than $375,000 of improvements to the park.
“It’s hard to take credit because it was such a massive collaboration that ended up transforming Randall Park,” said Downtown Rotary’s past president Bob DiPietro, whose club contributed $110,000 for new playground equipment.
Twelve years ago, DiPietro swung by the park to watch his sons play basketball on the courts and said he was concerned. He and his Rotary club chose to invest in Randall Park because everyone was in agreement that it was a beautiful property that was in poor condition.
“It didn’t look like a place I wanted my kids to hang out. It was pretty run down,” he said. “Now, you go out there on the weekends and it’s packed with people.”
Sunrise Rotary Club contributed two picnic shelters, while Southwest Rotary contributed the wildlife observation deck. The Lions Club contributed for the bridge across the creek to a nature area. West Valley Kiwanis Club contributed money for a bench in the park, Wilkinson said.
“I’ve never seen service groups give the way they do in Yakima,” Wilkinson said. “They really give back.”
Sunrise Rotary past president Jeff Scott said his club was pleased that all three Rotary clubs were able to help with the project, which aligns with Rotary clubs’ mission to reinvest in the community.
“Rotary is made up of business leaders who are part of the community, and we truly believe in investing in our community for the good of the whole,” Scott said. “The timing was ideal.”
Southwest Rotary past president Bill Gilmore agreed that Randall Park was an easy choice for a service project.
“All you had to do is drive by there any time of the day to see the various ways the park was utilized,” Gilmore said. “Each time I pass by the park, I am pleased and satisfied that our efforts are benefiting the residents of Yakima.”
The park also saw a number of volunteer efforts and community projects, Wilkinson said, making a total dollar amount of investment difficult to determine. The Yakima business Triumph Actuation Systems for example, sponsored the planting of 30 trees and 400 plants and shrubs around the park in 2015. The fencing along 44th Avenue and by the pond resulted from Eagle Scout projects, Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said the outpouring of donations, gifts and volunteer hours was humbling and overwhelming to him as a Parks and Rec guy.
“It truly is a project where everyone came together and made something great,” he said. “My big challenge for Tuesday is to not get choked up.”
Wilkinson said his department will continue to work on Randall Park, though staff have classified the park as “done.”
Plans are currently underway, for example, to add a gazebo or some kind of sun shade to the dog park adjacent to Randall Park, Wilkinson noted. He said that so far about $1,200 has been raised for the project, which he estimated would take about $25,000 to $30,000.
Wilkinson said he and his staff have applied for several grants for the project and will continue to seek out additional sources of funding. Other projects include possibly establishing a walkway along 48th avenue, he said.
For more information about Randall Park, visit https://yakimaparks.com or call 509-575-6020.