‘You are in the middle of history’ Georgiana Smith park dedicated

October 12, 2005

The Couch bench was one of the best seats in the park during Sunday’s festivities at the Hood River County Library.

The children of John and Hap Couch were among the 250 people who attended the rededication of the Georgiana Smith Memorial Park.

“Remember this place. This is about people and a place,” said Rodger Schock, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners, in opening the ceremony. “This all happened because of the energy, passion, and the money of a lot of different people to make it what it was.”

Those who made it happen included community members such as the Couch family.

The Couch children purchased a memorial bench for their parents, who had made the Hood River Library a central part of their lives.

“She spent a lot of time at the library,” Mary Clark of Vancouver said of her mother, Hap, who is 97 and lives at Down Manor and was unable to attend.

“She had us at the library a lot when we were kids. I did a lot of research for my papers at Hood River High School,” Mary recalled. “The old card catalogs. Remember those?”

Hap played on the lawn as a girl and used the library all her life. She was born in 1909, four years before the library was established on land donated by Ezra Smith in memory of the community work done by his wife, Georgiana. The Smiths arrived in Hood River in 1876 and worked over the next few decades to provide a library for the young town.

“Georgiana Smith is one of my heroes,” library director June Knudson said. “There is no photo of her, and little is known about her, but she worked tirelessly toward what she felt the community ought to be.

“So many people pitched in and did this project. Georgiana Smith represents what this community is all about,” Knudson said.

During Sunday’s event, Library Foundation president Virginia Hosford urged the crowd to look at the stone bearing a plaque commemorating the Smiths.

That connection to the history of the place is what the event was all about.

Sitting on the Couch family bench, Hap’s son, David Couch of Hood River, said “We know this is what she would have wanted – some kind of contribution to the library to keep it going.”

The park has been in redevelopment for months, thanks to the work of Hood River County Public Works and Mount Hood Gardens crews, an ongoing fundraising effort by the Foundation, but Sunday was the first major gathering in the expanded park.

John and Charlene Stoltz of Hood River donated the land next to the existing Smith park.

Marion McNew of Mount Hood Gardens designed the park and oversaw the work, along with Dean Guess, county facilities director and library director June Knudson.

Where scrub lawn and unkempt foliage dominated, something new has been created: patios, walkways, the Rotary Club pergola, trees and plantings, new lawn, a broad walkway linking the library to Sixth Street, and benches such as the Couches’.

Meanwhile, the original section of the park has a new stairway and concrete path between Oak and State streets, trees, new Children’s Patio and Front Patio, and a broad sidewalk.

Rotary Club president Michael Schock and past president Judy Dutcher helped in the park ribbon-cutting, held at the new Rotary pergola.

The wooden structure is the product of a $10,000 club donation that served as its centennial project for Rotary International, founded in 1905.

“Our club has helped in the past with the Children’s Park, Rotary Skate Park, and other projects for our young people, so we (Rotary) saw this as a good project to take on, a natural extension of what we’d already done,” Dutcher said.

Community donations have taken the form of $50 bricks to $750 benches to $10,000 patios such as the one paid for by Phil Jensen in honor of his family, by the library’s State Street entrance.

The Sherrerd family enjoyed seeing the Magnolia planted in honor of Kathleen Sherrerd, overlooking Oak Street.

Throughout the afternoon, people walked along the park paths, eyes down, looking for bricks and those of friends.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing that’s been done,” said Betty Deane of Hood River. “It builds community, and we need more of that. As a community we need to remember ourselves and our history.”

Pat Pattison, a Hood River native, said, “It feels good to have something so beautiful in our town.” Of the former park, she said, “it was there without being used as much as it could.”

“I think that Marion was the perfect person to do this. She did an excellent job.”

On Sunday, McNew said she tried to keep the design simple, with lawns, patios, walkways and benches where people could meet.

“This is a place for people to enjoy the view, enjoy the place, and enjoy each other,” McNew said.

That was the order of the day Sunday. Hosford said the rededication was the culmination of extensive hard work by many people.

“This is truly a gathering of community,” Hosford said, pointing to the 70-year-old stone wall overlooking the south edge of the expanded park, an edifice built by the same masons who built the Historic Columbia River Highway.

“You are in the middle of history,” Hosford said.

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