In her 1970 song “Big Yellow Taxi,”?Joni Mitchell lamented, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

But now the Mountain Runners are going the opposite direction with their purchase of a vacant lot in downtown Mount Shasta that they’d like to turn into a park.

As they’ve done for more than 30 years with profits from their annual Walk/Run, the Mountain Runners have their sights set on a downtown Mount Shasta beautification project.

They’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on such projects as planting trees, putting in old fashioned street lamps, a clock and a thermometer, mini-parks, benches – the list goes on.

This Sunday morning, when the July 4th Run/Walk crowd gathers in front of the Castle Street stage, event founder and director Dr. Jim Parker will announce the next big beautification thing.

With help from generous benefactors, the Mountain Runners are in the process of purchasing the empty lot next to Burger Express and across from Stage Door.

Their idea is to turn it into a small low-maintenance park, and they already have one concept for it created at no charge by Chris Schneider Design.

As of late last week, the sale was in escrow.

The property, owned since 2003 by Jon and Talitha Thomas of Jon Thomas Fine Jewelry, has long been used as a parking lot and a treatment area on the Fourth of July for Run/Walk participants. In recent years it has also been the site of the Mt. Shasta Farmers Market.

The Mountain Runners didn’t have enough to purchase the property outright, so Dr. Parker said he started making some phone calls.

“It’s wonderful that the Mountain Runners call people, and they hesitate 1.2 seconds before they say yes,”?Parker said last week.

Those who said yes were Joe Wirth, Susie Boyd, Greg Messer, Gerald Mapes, Nancy and Tom Driscoll and Wholesale Solar, a company that sells solar panels in Mount Shasta.

When the Mountain Runners found out they were still short, Jon Thomas found the final donors, Angelo and Tina Banos.
In the spirit of the Mount Shasta Fourth of July event that is now in its 31st year, Parker said others also stepped up to donate their services, including realtor Paul Engstrom and Siskiyou Title Company.

Parker said more money will have to be raised to create the park, and the Farmers Market may not be able to use the property in the same way it does now.

Ideas for the park may be solicited from the community.

Mountain Runners board president Dusty Miller said that when Parker presented to the idea to the board in late May, “at first we thought it was pie in the sky... then we realized what a neat thing this would be for the community.”

Like others, Miller has suggested the possibility of making the new park an easy access area for the city parking lot below it, which many feel is underutilized on a day to day basis.

He said “the Mountain Runners’ main mission is downtown beautification. This is a one-time opportunity that came along, and we were in a position to move.”

Jon Thomas said he once envisioned a two-story building on the site with three shops below and offices above.
“Downtown kind of stops there, and we wanted to make it something nice,”?he said.

Now he likes the idea of seeing it preserved as open/green space in town, a concept he compares to the town squares in Europe.

“I?see a beautiful community, simple park there,”?said Thomas. “It’s going to spruce up that end of town.”

“I think the more amenities we can bring to downtown, the more successful we’ll be in creating a community of successful businesses,” said Susie Boyd. “I’m concerned about the growing number of empty storefronts. I want to do what I can to make it more attractive.”

Boyd said she understands the concerns about taking away parking space downtown, but also sees the opportunity to make it easier for people to get to the parking lot below the property, which she describes as “a huge unused space... Once we get a nice design and plan for the parcel and include a nice stairway or ramp, it will be a great solution.”

Joe Wirth describes himself as “retired,” even though he is the president of the Mt. Shasta Trail Association and he and his wife Michael produces and sell Mt. Shasta chocolate bars, then donate 100 percent of the profits for trail projects in northern California.

“We’ve lived in Mount Shasta about 12 years, and we appreciate the quality of life, the air we breathe, the scenery, the people,”?Joe Wirth said. “We look at this idea that Dr. Parker has to create a mini-park downtown as a real addition that enhances the experience of being downtown. We’re pleased to give something back to our community.”

Greg Messer said he got involved because he liked the idea for the property.

“That end of town needs something,”?said Messer, who spends half his time working in Connecticut and the other half serving in numerous roles in Siskiyou County, including board president of Siskiyou Media Council (MCTV15), board president of Siskiyou Arts Council, vice president of the College of the Siskiyous Foundation and, most recently, board member for Madrone Hospice.

“Jim Parker is a good idea person for the city,” Messer said. “He hit the mark with this one.”

Messer said that when Parker asked him how he would like to be recognized for contributing to the purchase, he replied, “Put me on the committee that does the planning.”