Some of us remember when the South Umpqua riverbank at Roseburg’s Stewart Park was covered in unsightly blackberry bushes.
Its appearance in those days never would have elicited the kind of comments we hear from Music on the Half Shell performers. They marvel at the view of the river and the lushness of the grassy hillside amphitheater. Some remark on the sweetness of the plump wild blackberries that remain, but none has spoken of being heavily scratched by thorns while making their way to the water’s edge.
Removing the briars there made a huge difference and now, a couple of decades later, the same can be said for Micelli Park, the riverfront park in Roseburg’s Mill-Pine Historic District. Although some would argue the transformation of Micelli is much more dramatic, even if the park is quite a bit smaller.
About 60 volunteers attacked the six-acre park over two months’ time this fall to remove the blackberry bushes and other invasive plants. While doing so, they also hauled off a lot of trash that had accumulated in the park. The volunteers were supported by about 20 local businesses that contributed equipment to aid in the cleanup and fed the workers.
Their mission was two-fold: To restore the natural beauty of the riverfront park so more people could enjoy the space, and reduce the illegal activity that had been taking place there.
Many of the volunteers live nearby and are part of the neighborhood organization, SERVICE, or Southeast Roseburg Voice and Community Enhancement. Since the park has been improved, they’ve already noticed less criminal activity, such as car break-ins and mail theft.
They’ve also developed a camaraderie. People became connected through their commitment to spruce up the park and make it an attractive place for families to visit. Those who want to stay awhile and enjoy the view of the river can now relax on a couple of park benches that have been installed.
The future of the park is promising. It’s included in the city of Roseburg’s 2010 Waterfront Development Master Plan. The city would like to extend the bike and pedestrian path that passes by Stewart, Gaddis and Riverside parks into Micelli Park. A more ambitious goal is to build a footbridge across the river using the old Portland Avenue bridge footings so the path could connect to the bike path on the west side of the South Umpqua.
Path users could then head south toward the fairgrounds and go all the way to Green on the path, or they could head north toward the connection next to Roseburg High School to complete the loop.
This would be an excellent asset for Roseburg. It would show more appreciation for the river that runs through our city while encouraging residents to get some exercise and fresh air.
We hope to see progress on this idea in the near future. For now, we applaud the efforts of the many volunteers who have worked hard to restore Micelli Park.