As night falls Saturday, Longview will switch on the holiday lights at Civic Circle and illuminate the newest addition to R.A. Long Park: an octagonal gazebo and its concrete plaza.
The public shelter is years in the making. Funding for a fountain at the park fell short in 2016. Then the more modest concrete plaza and gazebo proposal was held up last year while the city waited for about $287,000 in state funding.
City Manager Kurt Sacha said Monday that the $807,000 gazebo was worth the wait.
“It turned out beautiful and will become a centerpiece for Longview,” he said.
He said he’d like to see community concerts occur at the gazebo, similar to the free summer concert series at Martin Dock at Lake Sacajawea.
“I think the fountain would (have been) pretty to see, but I think the gazebo is going to be used,” Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Wills said.
The gazebo will provide a location for live music during city events such as the Crafted Brew Fest and Squirrel Fest, she said. And the gazebo also could be reserved for private parties, such as weddings.
“The gazebo is a beautiful new addition to our community. It definitely adds life to that center hub of our community as well,” Wills said. “Sometimes that park ... has been forgotten. For a while it was just a circle that people drive around. Now it’s a park in people’s minds, too.”
Monticello Hotel project manager Craig Dieffenbach said he is excited about the gazebo and said he’d like to see summer weddings at the shelter hold receptions at the hotel just across the street. And he said he hopes to sponsor a summer croquet league at the park.
“They did a good job. We’re excited because we want to see the area cleaned up. It’s pretty monumental, actually. If there are a lot of people using the gazebo, the homeless might not hang out there as much,” he said.
Dieffenbach said it seemed like Longview police have increased patrols in the area because there haven’t been as many overnight campers in the park.
The new structure includes educational signs about Longview’s history and its historic buildings, donated by historian group the Longview 23 Club.
There also are two plaques dedicated to the Koelsch family, which donated $75,000 toward the project.
The city used $400,000 from the Kuntz Family Trust Fund to help finance the project, and the City Council made up the remaining $44,000 difference from the city’s Capital Projects Fund.
The project also includes pathways, electrical upgrades, new lights and landscaping. The park currently has electricity, but additional electrical installations in January will provide lighting within the gazebo, City Engineer Ivona Kininmonth said.
The R.A. Long Park master plan includes two additional phases that would install benches and picnic tables and additional lighting, but those projects have not been funded yet, Kininmonth said.
The city will hold a ribbon-cutting event for the gazebo at 3 p.m. on Dec. 12. The event will be open to the public, and local legislators are expected to attend, Sacha said.