History of the Dallas City Park
The area which is now the Dallas City Park was first used by the Indians as a meeting place and camp grounds. It was also used at one time by the cavalry as a camp ground. The site of the John Wick residence on Levens street and Jack Hayes property was the camp site of the commander. When Mr. Hayes cut down an old oak tree he found a button from the desk of the commander imbedded in the tree. By counting the rings, it appeared it had been left there in 1867. The cavalry went through Dallas every year camping in the park area for two or three days and then moving on. An Indian arrowhead was found here in the 1970s.
The early pioneers used this area as a picnic ground and meeting place. One can read of Fourth of July parades going through town to the “Old Camp Ground”. A program and business meeting would be held and a sumptuous picnic dinner followed. The original park area was pretty much the same as the park at the end of W. Academy is today. Later on there was a bandstand and a lot of activity in the summer time.
John E. Lyle (1815-1862) purchased the Squatter Rights to the property, held by Mitchell Gilliam. The ground was sold to the city by John’s widow, Ellen Lyle, June 5, 1884 for $350, with the deed stating the Christian Church had the right to hold religious services and there would be no intoxicating beverages sold on the premises. The original property had a board fence around it.
The first bridge across the creek to connect the two sides of the park was a swinging bridge which went down the following winter due to flood waters. The first swimming hole was at the bend of the creek near the north end of the parking lot. In the late 1920’s the merchants of Dallas donated money to build a dam across the creek. A dam was built near the sight of the footbridge. Planks could be placed in concrete foundations and removed in the winter flood waters.
Two small sheds were built for changing clothes and restrooms. Bill Dalton’s grandfather, E.V. Dalton, kept the area picked up and mowed.
The Dallas Fire Department flushed out the swimming hole several times as the flow of the water slowed down. Eventually the flow became so reduced that the pool was judged unsafe, so a municipal pool was built and the old dam torn out.
A Park Board was formed in the 1950’s by Mayor Hollis Smith. He appointed nine people from different organizations in town to the Park Board. Mr. McFarland, the local manager of the Pacific Power and Light Company was the Council representative and the chairman of the first Park Board. One of the first things done was to close the circle drive around the picnic area to cars. This received cries of outrage from the teenagers who liked to show their driving skills by racing around the circle. Slides and swings were installed, as were cooking facilities and restrooms.
The city park expands on the west side of the creek. About this time, Ralph Howe, the county surveyor discovered a strip of land along the opposite side of the creek that had been owned by the Spaulding Logging Company. The taxes had not been paid for years.
This area had been the old mill pond and was now a marshy bog covered with brush so thick the board had to hack their way through to inspect it. A small stream fed into the area from James Howe road. Records were checked and it was discovered this land was now owned by H. H. Harder a local real-estate man.
Mrs. Cecil Dunn was a close friend of the Portland Park Superintendent, and at her request, he came down to inspect the piece of property. He said it had tremendous potential and recommended the city purchase it. The asking price was $8,000 for 15 acres. The Park Board made the recommendation to the City Council and the land was purchased.
First things first, get a local man with a small cat to bulldoze a roadway through the entire length of the newly acquired park land. This roadway has never changed and remains the same today.
In the meantime, the old swimming hole was condemned and could no longer be used. The State condemned the pool due to septic tanks up river emptying into the water. Building a new municipal pool became the first priority. The location was a controversial subject as many felt it should be built in connection with one of the schools. Once the design and location could be agreed upon, the new pool was built. The subcontractor failed to put reinforcing rods in the proper locations and the pool leaked so it had to be done over.
A Japanese garden was designed with the help of Art Higashi and planted by the Rotary Club. The Kiwanis built a rest area with shrubs overlooking part of the park.
The Delbert Hunter Arboretum was added on the south end of the park. Through the years the park has been enlarged by land purchases and exchanges. It covers approximately 33 acres.
Most recently a disk golf course was added.
Events taking place include, the Old Timers Picnic held annually in the park. Dallas High School class reunions, family reunions, sawmill union members’ family picnics, and various other gatherings and activities, including weddings, have been held at the park for years.
Another annual event is “Breakfast in the Park” traditionally held the last Sunday in July. Hundreds of people come to have ham, eggs, and pancakes with all of the fixings. Other activities happening the same day in the park include “Art in the Park” where local artists and crafters display their goods for sale, tours through the arboretum, and a large car show where the municipal pool used to be.