Demolition Begins in Downtown Klamath Falls
Chris Young has painted several murals in Klamath Falls, one of which was recently slated to come down along the 1100 block of Main Street.
Several citizens voiced their concerns to Sky Lakes Medical Center, which now owns the properties, and Klamath Falls City Council. However, the muralist’s work would still be honored — Sky Lakes officials say Young will work with the medical center and city to help with some of the new park designs as the project moves forward.
“The mural was near and dear to people’s hearts,” said Lauren Jespersen, director of the Sky Lakes Foundation.
Demolition of the properties at 1112 and 1114 Main St. began Tuesday afternoon. As part of the process, the left travel lane of Main Street and corresponding parking lane and sidewalks between 11th and 12th streets will be closed through Wednesday, Dec. 6.
Left turns from 11th street to Main Street will be accommodated with a transition into the Main Street right lane, according to a news release from the city. Normal travel should resume prior to the upcoming Snowflake Parade on Thursday, Dec. 7.
Crafting a ‘green space’
The decision to have Young contribute to the project follows after several community members voiced concerns about either trying to save or at least commemorate the mural on the 1112 Main St. side of the property.
Sky Lakes entered a leasing agreement to purchase the 1.4 acre lot of land along Klamath Avenue and 11th Street after city council voted 4-1 to support the plans in May.
The project itself serves as a memorial park for Dr. Stephanie Van Dyke, who originally worked with Sky Lakes Wellness Center Director Katherine Pope on proposing the downtown green space.
“It was then sort of put on the back burner, but a project we always wanted to move forward with,” Jespersen said.
Sky Lakes first looked into purchasing a single building for the green space project, but it became more cost effective to purchase all interconnected properties to avoid greater demolition costs, according to Jespersen.
The detailed mural depicted several timber workers and a horse in a wooded area. City Councilor Kendall Bell said on Nov. 6 that money from the Klamath Falls Downtown Association (KFDA) helped pay for the piece.
Resident Art Belsky told city councilors that evening that he had concerns of downtown maintaining a “historic flavor” in the community. Belsky added that he also had some family reunion photos taken at the mural site. At the time, no solutions could be presented to help preserve the mural itself.
Todd Kepple, Klamath County Museums manager, said the mural has always been one of his favorites, but that he and other residents would face whatever changes needed to take place.
“I visited (Young) one day while he was working on it and got a whole new appreciation for what a challenge it is to do the strokes when you are standing about 18 inches away from the wall,” Kepple said.
Jespersen said Sky Lakes officials have decided to move forward with the entire block becoming a downtown park, adding that it could also be listed as an inventory item for the Klamath Falls parks master plan in the works.