By Dena Martin
the Times 

Caboose Park exceeds expectations

Dedication is planned for Sept. 20 4-7 p.m.


September 5, 2019

Lane Gwinn

Dayton's Caboose Park, to be dedicated on Sept. 20, is a proud addition to Dayton's downtown corridor. Amanda Speraw watches as son Ezra navigates the playground. Maggie Parsons takes a trip down the slide as Dad DJ Parsons (not shown) supervises.

DAYTON-"The start of a playground kicked off one idea, which led to another, which led to a beautiful town center for all to use," said Dayton Development Task Force (DDTF) Chair Bette Lou Crothers.

Caboose Park has been several years in the making and started with a desire by former task force member Cara Watts, to build a small playground in the empty lot near the caboose at the Dayton Historic Depot.

From there, the project continued to bloom and grow. A public restroom was added in 2016. In 2018 The DDTF was awarded a $65,000 grant from Sherwood Trust to develop a park which included additional playground equipment, trees, landscaping, and tables. The finishing touches to that project are being made now, with a grand opening celebration planned for Sept. 20.

"The Depot board wanted the Depot to belong to and be used by the community and encouraged building the public restroom in the style of the Depot. Their eagerness to share with the community and them being such a good partner allowed the concept to evolve. We call it Caboose Park, but I really feel it's a town and community center," Crothers said, referencing the gathering space that runs between 1st and 2nd streets.

"People hold weddings and events at the Depot square and the park provides a place for children to play. It's right downtown, so it's a perfect spot for people to meander and for families to rest. I can't say how tremendous of a project it is for Downtown Dayton," she added.

Crothers said the park is heavily utilized. She said the fenced play area is ideal for young children and young mothers are already gathering there to meet.

"We added our last playground piece – a train engine in keeping with the railroad theme – with young children in mind," she said.

The park was funded through the Sherwood Trust grant, fundraising, donations and funds from the Washington State B&O Tax Incentive Program which allows local businesses to ensure a portion of their B&O taxes are used locally. . Local participants included: Columbia Rural Electric Association, Inc., Banner Bank, Puget Sound Energy, Inc., The McGregor Company, Elk Drug, Inc., State Farm Crothers Agency, Pioneer Title Company of Walla Walla and Dayton Mercantile, PDQ/The General Store.

Crothers said that the park turned out so nicely that it was one of only two locations on Highway 12 selected as a site for an electric vehicle charging station. That project is underway now.

Crothers expressed thanks to local contractors who went above and beyond on the project, adding special touches that weren't requested or charged for. Local contractors included Roman Schmidt and Tanner Steinhoff of Summit Construction and Dustin Wolther of Touchet Valley Landscapes.

"Anne Walsh of Puget Sound Energy heard about the project and contacted me because they had a small grant they wanted to put toward the project," Crothers said. PSE purchased three high-quality metal trash cans, at a cost of nearly $2,000 after shipping, she said.

To raise funds for the original park, the playground committee sold fence railings, engraved with names of donors or as memorials. Those railings are in the process of being re-sanded and oiled and will be re-installed on the inside of a four-foot privacy fence, Crothers said.

Crothers is the last original member of the Dayton Development Task Force (DDTF), which was established in 1984, to revitalize Main Street. The group is a project committee.

"We own nothing – we just do projects. We have done many around town. Oftentimes we start a project and hand it over to another group, like the restoration of the Liberty Theater and the courthouse," Crothers said.

Caboose Park committee members include Bette Lou Crothers, Jennie Dickinson, Kari Dingman, Bill Clemens, Sam Korslund, Ken Graham, Ginny Butler and Trina Cole. Crothers said former County Commissioner Norm Passmore volunteered his time as general overseer of the project prior to his moving from the area earlier this year. Crothers said Dickinson was especially helpful with grant writing and Catalyst Church (pastored by Korslund) built the picnic tables and is heading up the fence wall.

"The whole community pitched. They were very enthusiastic and responsive. It was truly heartwarming," Crothers said.

The community is invited to celebrate Caboose Park's dedication from 4-7 p.m. on Sept. 20. Kiwanis will serve free hot dogs, brats, chips and water, a clown will be on hand making balloon animals and bouquets, and a face-painter will be on site. The Depot caboose will also be open to the public, Crothers said.

Lane Gwinn

The arbor to the picturesque rest and play space will soon be covered in floral vines.


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