A neighborly crowd of Frederickson residents, estimated to be 300-400, came to the Frederickson Elementary School Friday night for a fundraising spaghetti dinner. The goal was to raise money to begin development of the Stan and Joan Cross Park, a sixty-four acre property on Military Rd now owned by Pierce County.
While listening to delightful violin and piano duets performed by Mary Joseph and Jana Roestel, guests dined on simple but delicious fare – especially the meatballs – and then when it was time for an after-dinner sweet, they bid up to $70 per cake in the dessert auction. Once sated, the guess enjoyed the vocal mastery of Monica Biscaino in a Karaoke-style performance of pop tunes.
In fact, by the end of the evening it seemed like everything was getting auctioned, and the twenty young tomato plants serving as table flowers went for three bucks a pop – and judging by the scramble for plants, the evening’s sponsor’s, Friends of Stan and Joan Cross Park, could have sold dozens more.
When the festivities ended organizers said they had raised about $3,000.
The money, joined with other funds raised by the FSJCP over the past couple of years, is first slated to buy some playground equipment for the park, according to Kurt Cross, son of Stan and Joan.
However, other officials of the FSJCP say the money will be used to leverage matching contributions from corporations in the Frederickson area, and then those funds will be used to solicit yet another round of matching grants from state and local governments.
“When we get about $3 million, then we can really begin to develop the park,” said one official.
The finances of the county are so strapped with the current economic downturn that private efforts like the FSJCP’s are required to maintain parklands.
In a gracious and warm conversation, Kurt Cross described the genesis of the Stan and Joan Cross Park for the Mountain News.
He said that his parents were raised on large ranches – Stan on a cattle ranch in Montana, and his mother Joan on a large spread in Nebraska. When they married here in Washington and began raising their three sons, Kurt, Kent and Kyle, they wanted to recapture some of the fond experiences of their own youth and decided to purchase the 64 acres on Military Rd.
“There was nothing but woods all around when they bought it,” said Kurt.
For a time the family lived in their old home in Parkland during the week and then head down Canyon Rd to the “ranch” on weekends.
“Me and my brothers did a lot of work down here on weekends,” said Kurt, “putting up fences, fixing the old barns – the place used to be an old dairy farm, but my father ran a few head of cattle and sold the beef to friends.”
At the time, Stan was the principal of Rogers High School, and his son characterized the nature of the farm operations as a “hobby ranch.”
However, in 1991 the Cross family moved to the farm, located in the 4400 block of Military Rd, just west of Canyon Rd and adjacent to the Tacoma Railroad tracks.
“They built their dream house, there,” Kurt added.
However, Kurt said that once he and his brothers had grown up, married and moved too far away to be of any immediate assistant to their parents, Stan and Joan decided the upkeep of the land and cattle operation was beyond their abilities, and they decided to sell the property.
“But they wanted to keep the land pastoral,” Kurt said. “They got a lot of offers from developers – and the surrounding areas were really getting built up with homes – but they didn’t want to see it just become another suburban sub-division.”
As a result, the Cross’ were able to sell the property to the county with the stipulations that it would be destined to become a park. The county, in turn, envisioned a grander scheme for the area, and in addition to the Cross property they bought an adjoining 55 aces of forested land to make a total of 119 acres.
“The 55 acres is to stay as a wildlife preserve,” said Kurt, “and the 64 acres will be a more typical park, with open spaces, playgrounds – that kind of thing.”
Kurt also said that the combined lands have a trout creek running through it that is popular with local fishermen.
As for Pierce County, they have developed a master plan for the park, and initial construction of a parking lot has started.
© 2011 The Mountain News WA