Gross: Ellensburg’s proposed park changes would hinder local facility for veterans

Nov 9, 2023, 2:00 PM | Updated: 2:33 pm

Ellensburg veterans...

Exterior of Ellensburg's American Legion post. (Photo courtesy of American Legion)

(Photo courtesy of American Legion)

A proposal by the City of Ellensburg threatens to cut resources from local veterans.  

Representatives from the local American Legion post, the largest wartime veterans service organization in the U.S., claimed proposed modifications to a city park will take away all of its parking. They believe the lack of parking at the picturesque park threatens the viability of the non-profit. 

Locals call the park “Craig’s Hill,” though it’s officially called Reed Park. It serves as a scenic overlook sitting on top of the county rodeo grounds. People sit in their cars, instead of outside, to get out of the wind to overlook the surrounding area.

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The city wants to take out this parking to help separate pedestrians from auto traffic and add more picnic areas.

The American Legion post needs this parking, especially when it hosts events. The post has 500 members, many of whom are veterans who are disabled and elderly.  

“Our club has been here since 1930. And if the parking changes up here, then our business won’t survive,” American Legion Auxiliary president Nicole Paxton told The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH. “Much of our revenue comes from renting our hall out for things like weddings, baby showers, funerals, birthday parties, anniversaries, that kind of thing. We’re the most affordable rental hall in the county.” 

Paxton said the community doesn’t support the city’s proposals. A petition has circulated with over 2,500 signatures asking to keep the park as it is. A city-backed survey only received about 250 responses in favor of the proposal, which leaders used to move forward with their plan. 

“We began the process in response to neighborhood concerns, incorporated ideas from stakeholders and online surveys into proposed designs, and have continued the process of redesigning and refining the proposals,” Ellensburg Mayor Nancy Lillquist told The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH. “[The city] even extend[ed] the survey deadline, in response to what we’ve heard more recently from the American Legion, petition folks, and the general public.” 

But Paxton said there is a disconnect because residents only know the area as Craig’s Hill, not ‘Reed Park,’ which is listed on the proposal.  

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“I could go downtown right now and ask 10 people where the park is, and none of them would know where it was,” Paxton said. “If I asked the same people where Craig Hill was, they would know exactly where it is.”

Paxton believes this project will not only harm the American Legion’s business, but reduce access to a scenic viewpoint. She also doesn’t think it benefits the city very much — especially when funding for the project isn’t finalized.  

Paxton said more practical ideas would be a better use of public funds.

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