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Day: July 28, 2010

KNOW YOUR PARKS: Chalmers-Jones Park a great place to splash, skate or sit

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

In a nutshell: Chalmers-Jones Park is a well-manicured park on the civic center campus with some of the newest amenities, including a splash fountain and Carlson Skate Park. Budget cuts mean the splash park won’t run as often as planned this year, but it’s available on hot days. Not much for younger kids to do if the fountain is closed.

Time visited: 1:30 p.m. on a Thursday

Size: 2.9 acres, which includes the skate park.

Who was there: A half-dozen or so children and their families were cooling off in the new splash fountain. Older kids were using the skate park.

Where is it: Behind the Keizer Civic Center, with access from Rickman Drive NE and Chemawa Road NE. A separate parking area for the skate park is on Rickman Drive. [MAP: 6]

Mowing level: Very good, although weed control was spotty around light posts. Dry grass indicates the park could use some irrigation or sprinklers. Lots of young trees and shrubs planted as part of civic center project; it is likely the most landscaped park in Keizer’s park system.

What’s there: A brand new splash fountain opened this summer and will be open limited hours. Visit Keizer.org for the details. It’s free and open to the public. Water shoots up from fountains built into the concrete (it doesn’t have a pool where water accumulates).

Its hours of operation are limited this year due to budget constraints – due to its water recycling system, from a public health perspective it must be treated the same as a public swimming pool. There is bench-type seating available near the fountain.

Paved sidewalks provide easy movement between the skate park, splash fountain and the civic center. At 21,000 square feet, the skate park is popular and consistently used. Just make sure you or your children wear helmets while using it, or risk a citation.

An attractive, well-maintained gazebo is open to the public and can be rented for $35 for a two-hour minimum. Call 503-390-3700 for more information.

There are numerous benches and picnic tables on site, but none are covered.

Portable toilets are available on the side of the skate park nearest Rickman Drive. Indoor bathrooms at the Keizer Civic Center are available during the city’s normal business hours.

Free public wireless Internet is available inside and may reach outside.

The park is bordered to the north and west by the Keizer Civic Center, to the east by a parking and a private residence, and private homes to the south.

All houses are either fenced off or have high hedges.

Parking: Ample parking both by the skate park on Rickman Drive and in the civic center parking lot.

Park history: Land was purchased on July 1, 1986 after extensive deliberations as part of Salem Private School campus purchase for the Keizer City Hall and police department. It was named City Hall Park.

A wood-chip walking path was later added, and it was renamed to honor Keizer resident Chalmers Jones. Skate Park was completed in July 1999. Oregon National Guard Civil-Military Projects group completed the gazebo in 2001.

The Parks Master Plan calls for: Permanent restrooms and concession stand. A previous master plan calls for a play area next to the skate park.

Staff comments: “I think this park is in good shape. We still need to install some additional irrigation on the south and south west side, but that’s about it. The strength of this park lies in its versatility and proximity to the Civic Center.” – Terry Witham, parks supervisor.

Chamber lays out vision for freeway visitors center

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

A vision for a visitors center near Interstate 5 is becoming clearer.

Top officials from the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, which acts as the tourism agency for the city, say it would dramatically increase visibility and aim to double visitors to Keizer if the facility is built.

There’s been no decisions made, but some hope to establish a partnership with Salem-Keizer Transit, which plans to build a transit center on Lockhaven Drive at Keizer Station Boulevard.

Any expansion would be contingent on funding. While no one’s sure yet where money for building would come from, officials believe grants from organizations like Travel Oregon and even contributions from youth sports groups could be used to operate it once it’s built.

Transient occupancy taxes (TOT) could also come into the equation. The Chamber received $16,118 from the city of Keizer in TOT, more commonly known as a hotel/ motel tax, in 2008-09.

Their proposal calls for hiring one more full-time employee, increasing fulltime staffing to three. The visitors center would serve to “promote Keizer as a destination to stay, play or shop … or to live and work,” it states.

Christine Dieker, executive director of the chamber, acknowledged doubling tourism in three to five years is ambitious – but she thinks it’s doable.

Chamber President Joe Egli said attracting more tourists – be it for a youth sports tournament or acting as a hub to get to destinations throughout the Willamette Valley – is key to growing the local economy.

“Essentially we need to get more money in town instead of trading dollars around town,” Egli said. “… It’s a food chain effect. If we feed our retail businesses with new money, our businesses will grow. … They will need more insurance, they’ll have money to buy bigger houses and will need more professional services.”

He said the Chamber’s current home in the basement of the Keizer Heritage Center “does nothing to bring more business to River Road. … If we’re out (at Keizer Station) we will bring more business to Keizer by nature.”

Dieker believes proximity to area attractions – the coast and wineries to the west, mountains to the east and Portland to the north – will be a big selling point to augment what’s already here, like the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.

“Location, location, location is something we’ve always said to be special of Keizer,” she said. “… Actually staying in Keizer puts you less than an hour’s drive to so many things that are special about the Willamette valley.”

She also said efforts in recent years to emphasize the area’s history, along with programs like public art, would give travelers one more reason to stay in Keizer.

“There’s a history behind this area that’s pretty special in Oregon,” Dieker said.

A new community center open for rentals, along with youth sports facilities, could be another draw, she said.

There’s another amenity – public restrooms – Egli thinks could be a draw.

And Egli thinks the chamber continuing to act as a tourism agency puts Keizer front and center, rather than outsourcing to other outfits like Travel Oregon .

“They’re not going to be pushing Keizer as much,” he said. “They’ll be pushing regional things. But we want to be a player.”