Peanuts Park isn't a typical city park.
The 37-year-old patch of concrete on Lewis Street in downtown Pasco doesn't have a blade of grass.
A few trees sprout from planters to offer shade to customers at the Pasco Farmers Market.
Aside from a couple of portable toilets and a decorative fountain that hasn't worked for years, that's about it.
And it's often frequented by a crowd that worries neighborhood business owners.
Pasco and the community are considering upgrades to the facility, which has twice gained notoriety in recent weeks because people didn't realize it is a park.
The state, at the city's request, denied an application July 25 for a nearby marijuana retail shop, citing a law prohibiting such businesses within 1,000 feet of a park.
David Morgan, who had planned to open the Lucky Leaf LLC retail marijuana store 250 feet away on the same block, said he didn't realize it was a park until he saw it labeled as such on a map during a meeting with the Downtown Pasco Development Authority in early July -- long after he'd invested time and money in the project.
Then, on July 28, police arrested two high-risk sex offenders there. Michael Arthur Figueroa, 39, and Jeffrey Wayde Hull, 44, said they did not know Peanuts is a park, according to court documents. They had been barred from going to places where kids gather including parks, schools, swimming pools and libraries.
The city always has considered the area to be a park, even if it doesn't have the traditional ballfields or playgrounds, said Pasco Police Capt. Jim Raymond.
"It has been a gathering point for transients," Raymond said. "With that comes a lot of need for law enforcement attention for public intoxication, possession of narcotics or public urination."
The park is next to the Library Tavern, downtown's only remaining bar, and down the street from the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission shelter.
Jose Llamas, owner of the Muebleria Llamas furniture store in downtown Pasco, is happy that the presence of Peanuts Park is helping keep the sale of marijuana out of downtown.
But he doesn't see the park, known as a hangout for homeless people, as a family-friendly location.
"You have an area that is frequented by anti-socials, who will commit acts of indecency, strip down naked," Llamas said through a translator.
The downtown development authority is working on improving the park, executive director Michael Goins said. The authority has enlisted the help of some Columbia Basin College students in coming up with ideas.
Their plans call for selling sponsored bricks in the park, as well as adding decorative fencing.
Longer-term, Goins wants to see the park's concrete water feature repaired or replaced. He would like to see new benches put in, along with tables where people can play checkers or chess.
The park already is wired for speakers, so music can be played during events, Goins said. The goal is to make the site more acceptable for families.
"I would say during the weekend, when we have the farmer's market, it is well-controlled and is family-friendly," Goins said. "When we don't have the market is when we've had trouble."
Efforts already are being made to change the park's image, he said. The farmers market has a Kids Day, where pony rides and cooking demonstrations are available for kids.
The park was dedicated in 1977 and named for Noburu "Peanuts" Fukuda, a beloved man who gave candy to Tri-City children for generations.
The idea of fixing the park up isn't new.
A plan was proposed in 2000 to renovate the park, with a new kid-safe fountain, decorative concrete structures, a stage and a picnic area with grass and trees. But the plan by the Pasco Downtown Development Association, the development authority's forerunner, fizzled after complaints from neighboring businesses that the proposal did nothing to address drug dealers, prostitutes and thugs they said loitered there, according to Herald archives.
Peanuts Park and other "pocket parks" are an important part of the downtown development association's work plan, which seeks to revitalize the area within five years, Goins said.
"Our job is to bring that back," he said. "As we start to work on our pocket parks, that's the first one we'll pay attention to."
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom