When Greenwood Luster helped create Hermiston’s smallest park across from his home, he had no idea it would someday be renamed in his honor.
The half-acre park is tucked away on Beech Avenue, on a dead-end street behind Pizza Hut traveled almost exclusively by the neighborhood’s residents. For most of its life it didn’t have an official name — some called it Jaycee Park after the youth organization that helped Luster create the park, while others called it North Park or the Northside Playground.
It was well-loved by neighborhood children, but over the years fell into disrepair. By 2015 the restroom had long since stopped working and the landscaping had been reduced to nothing but bare dirt. The metal merry-go-round, slide and swing set were worn out and presented a safety hazard.
Many of the city’s most involved residents didn’t even know the park existed.
“I didn’t even know about it until a friend said, ‘North Park needs some help,’ and I was like, ‘Where’s North Park?’” mayor David Drotzmann said.
The city reached out to neighborhood residents and put together a committee to discuss a complete redesign of the park in 2015. Last Thursday the new park was unveiled.
“This was a park that needed a little care, needed a little love and care, and I’m proud of the community for stepping up,” Drotzmann said at the ribbon cutting.
The celebration was attended by various neighborhood children and descendants of the late Greenwood Luster, including his granddaughter Jackie Linton who lives in his former home near the park today. Linton showed up at city council meetings multiple times during the past three years to advocate for pushing the park project forward when it stalled, fostering a continued interest in city government that inspired her to run for a seat on the council in 2018. She was unsuccessful, but continues to attend city council meetings and is often the only citizen to give input there.
Linton said she was sure her grandfather, who died in 2010 at the age of 87, would have been moved to tears to know the park had been restored and renamed after him.
“He was just crazy about Hermiston,” she said.
He must have said 10 million times that Hermiston was a wonderful place to live, she said.
Luster was a Baptist deacon and later became pastor of the Church of God. He worked for Union Pacific and Sanitary Disposal, where Linton said he was the type of person to go up and get the trash from elderly customers who forgot to put it out on the curb.
Neighborhood residents who remembered Luster or learned about his legacy through Linton felt it only appropriate to name the park after him. With the help of the city, Lions Club and Kiwanis Club newly-renovated park got a decorative stone wall and wrought-iron fencing, bark chips, a wooden shade structure, benches and brand new playground equipment in the process.
Parks and recreation director Larry Fetter said at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting that the park was “a very tired and worn down park” before.
“There were a lot of discussions,” he said. “In the end I think what we have is a really child-centered and family-centered facility.”
He said the parks staff did a great job of getting the park ready in time, despite also dealing with one Hermiston park damaged by flooding and another playground destroyed by fire within a few weeks of each other.
He said Linton, who lives next to the park, had his cell phone number and was a great built-in guardian and security system for Greenwood Park.
Linton said her grandson had been asking her for months when the new playground would be ready and was thrilled when she told him Thursday was the day. He and a dozen other children wasted no time testing out the new equipment, particularly the new merry-go-round that neighbors had insisted needed to be part of the design.
“They’re so excited today,” Linton said.