Wayne Martinez Memorial Park officially dedicated
By Chad Abshire
RAWLINS — Unofficially named no more, a park located near Front Street beneath the Jackson Street overpass was dedicated in a unanimous vote by the Rawlins City Council Tuesday night.
Never formally dedicated as a park prior to Tuesday, the Wayne Martinez Memorial Park now exists just feet from a mural dedicated to the slain corrections officer.
An ordinance dedicating the park was motioned for by Councilwoman Linda Smith, who introduced the measure saying, “it is (her) pleasure” to do so.
City Attorney Amy Bach told the council the planning commission had approved it officially becoming a park — it was even named as such on the city’s website — but that it was contingent on three things: pedestrian paths and vehicular traffic; the name; and a building on the property’s northeast side.
Pedestrians and motorists were covered by erecting a number of barricades near the underpass and the name was no problem — that was supported by the council. The building, however, was another issue that, while discussed, seemingly went unaddressed.
Bach said the structure is fenced, shows signs of decay and the roof has fallen. She said building officials toured the area, inspected it and found the walls to be solid. If it did fall, it would take the fence down, Bach said; but that same fence currently prevents children from accessing the secured building.
Councilman DeBari Martinez, uncle of Wayne Martinez, said the area started development in 1992 using city money for dangerous buildings to clean up a fire that occurred there. Later, a grant written by Smith for $16,000 brought the building back up, where the city “fenced it, locked it and nothing happened again.”
Smith said the stone building, which according to a map may have been the sight of the first jail in Rawlins — if not one of the first buildings constructed on the city’s south side, was never meant to have a roof again. It would have cost too much at the time, Smith said, but it was capped with masonry to prevent water from seeping into the walls.
Interim City Manager Scott Hannum said he was supportive of the park, especially since city staff had already been maintaining it, but had concerns of the building.
“Future councils may face an expectation to do something with that building,” he said. “Will there be expectation from the public to do something with it besides keeping it fenced and secured?”
Hannum flaunted the idea of perhaps turning it into a restroom facility, but said he was just looking at “long-range planning.”
Smith said the “intention” of the building “was set to be an interpretation of what it was.” Hannum said he was supportive of that.
As such, it’s unsure what will be done with the building, if anything. Signage denoting the area as Wayne Martinez Memorial Park was also not discussed.
Martinez, called it a “pretty little park,” saying that when his nephew died, he believed then it would have been a nice gesture to name it after him. He said his nephew would often walk his kids by that area on their way to the post office.
“I thought it would be a good name, but it never took place,” he said. “We’ve been waiting ever since.
“I’m really happy to see this happen and I’m very supportive of the name. I’ve always looked at the park as a rest stop. Every time I go by, I always see someone using the benches.”
Cpl. Wayne Martinez, 26, was killed in the Wyoming State Penitentiary during an escape attempt in June 1997 in a unit now called the North Facility.
Martinez was alone in the shift command office when he was attacked by James Harlow, Richard Dowdell and Bryan Collins. Harlow struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher and Dowdell and Collins stabbed him repeatedly with homemade knives.
One of the men involved in his death, Collins, died April 29 in an out-of-state prison.
Martinez died of his injuries at Memorial Hospital of Carbon County. Then-Gov. Jim Geringer and many law enforcement officers from across the state and region attended his funeral.
Martinez left behind a wife and five children. He only had four hours left on his shift that day before leaving on vacation.
He planned to take his family to Disneyland.