Future Weed Community Center
By Gary VanDeWalker
By Gary VanDeWalker
Ashes are reminders of both death and rebirth. In the hill above the city of Weed, a dream of 20 years took shape. In spring 2014, the Weed Recreation and Park District opened its new Community Center. Grants from the Ford Family Foundation and the McConnell Foundation purchased a building, ordered tables and chairs and installed a commercial grade kitchen. Then-Mayor Bob Hall pronounced it “a gift to the community.”
Six months later came the Boles Fire and those two decades of planning were left in rubble in the wake of the disaster.
The cities of south Siskiyou County are unique. Each community has its own special needs from a recreation district. Along with their challenges, Dunsmuir, Mount Shasta and Weed are small towns with limited resources, and they maintain their identities while working together. The three districts combine their leadership under Mike Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a man with a huge smile and heart. He first became the program director for the Mount Shasta District in 1973. Today, he works as the administrative director of the three south county recreational districts.
With the help of Weed’s five-member board, Rodriguez tackled the challenge of the loss of the Weed Community Center. With the community rebuilding, the services of the recreational program and its sports camps, swim lessons and remaining parks and facilities could offer hope and rest in the tensions following the fire.
Four key elements remained untouched by the fire. The seven-acre Bel Air Park by College of the Siskiyous, with its ball fields and outdoor swimming pool, could still host the annual Weed Carnivale in the summer. Youth sports would excel at the Sons Park and Lobis Field. The fire had reached the edge, but had not damaged the sports complex or its original grandstand. Carrick Park’s three-acre picnic area, basketball courts and playground were just beyond the fire’s reach.
The fourth property, Charlie Byrd Park, with its playgrounds, picnic areas and new 9,000-square-foot Weed Skate Park, was within inches of the fire, but survived. From the ashes around this park, the dream which was burnt to the ground would rise again. “We secured something unexpected,” Rodriguez says. “Three, six-acre parcels became part of the district, directly adjacent to our property, extending into Angel Valley where the fire had done significant damage.”
What the new property offers is a place to rebuild. On top of the ashes, a 20-year old dream, thought gone, will rise up. Construction begins this summer on a 14,000-square-foot building that will include a commercial kitchen and a main room seating 160 guests for weddings, receptions and community events. There will be an indoor pool for physical therapy, pool programs, a vendor staffing and programming a dance studio, a physical therapist, and a computer tech program run in partnership with the high school. “There will even be a place there for the recreational districts’ main office,” Rodriguez says.
So a phoenix can rise from the ashes of despair. “This is such a positive facility for the residents here to utilize,” Rodriguez says. “I’m looking forward to rebuilding. It is something to enjoy and the result of what people in our community can accomplish.” •