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Four years of parking lot repavement, expansion to wrap up this fall at Tam O'Shanter Park in Kelso

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Tam O'Shanter park

Ireland Curtis, 7, plays on the playground at Tam O'Shanter Park on Wednesday, July, 6, in Kelso. The Kelso City Council recently approved a contract for phase three of improvements at Tam O'Shanter Park that includes parking lot expansion and repavement. 

Kelso’s largest park will soon have dozens of new parking spaces in the final phase of upgrades over the last four years.

Work to repave and add at least 60 parking spots at Tam O’Shanter Park will begin later this summer.

The Kelso City Council voted Tuesday to approve the roughly $950,000 bid for the project. Construction work will begin in August and is expected to conclude by early October.

The lowest bid for the work came from Advanced Excavating Specialists, the same company that did the work for the first two phases of construction in the park.

The new phase will focus on paving the road along the northeast side of the park, close to Schroeder Field and Kelso High School, and create the new parking spaces in the same stretch. Crews will also improve park lighting and pave other sections of road within the park.

The 38-acre park opened in 1958 and includes five baseball fields, three softball fields, a basketball court with six hoops and access to regional trails.

Kelso city engineer Michael Kardas said the city broke the parking lot improvements into phases because of funding limitations, with the largest commitment during the initial phase in 2019. The second phase took place in the fall of 2020 and cost roughly the same amount as phase three will.

“I view it as a kind of finishing move. The park’s in great shape without it but this will make it that much better,” Kardas said.

Kelso has two sources of funding for the upcoming phase. A rural economic development grant from Cowlitz County supplied $500,000 and the remainder is covered by the city’s park fund.

During the council meeting Tuesday, councilwoman Lisa Alexander asked Kardas how the construction would affect the Highlander Festival in September. Kardas said the work should take place far away from the sections of the park that host the festival.

Kardas said the construction should also have minimal impact on Kelso High School because the road is not a major access point.

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