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Go back to original toy plan

Those who are leading the planning for the Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park should go back to the consultant’s original site and be done with it.

Mayor Lore Christopher threw a wrench into the works several weeks aago when she publicly announced she didn’t like any of the three sites for the large playground suggested by Leathers and Associates, the east coast consultant hired at the rate of $32,000 to help the city plan and build the toy.

The mayor gave several reasons why she preferred a site in the northern part of Keizer Rapids Park, abutting Chemawa Road—including the fact that it would be more visible than sites deep in the park. One of the problems is that the area the mayor prefers is filled with hazelnut trees.  Another problem is that the site, though in Keizer city limits, is not within Keizer’s Urban Growth Boundary.

The mayor and some councilors are pushing Community Development Director Nate Brown to complete the arduous task of working with three other governments to get approval for expansion of the urban growth boundary by this summer so the original September schedule of construction of playground can be met. That is a tall order.

As he pointed out at this week’s council session,  Brown told the council that there are a number of important projects his department is working on, some of which would have to be pushed back into 2015 to accommodate this new ‘rush’ job. No playground is so important that it will bump important and mandated projects from being completed.

We think it is time to put this entire playground project back on its original track, build it at the suggested site in the park between the amphitheatre and the boat ramp.

City manager Chris Eppley wisely  stated that at times Keizer has to play catch up with the enthusiastic desires of community volunteers.  The big playground project came from the suggestion of a private citizen and it then took on a life of its own.

Somewhere along the timeline of the project a promise was made to Keizer citizens, playground supporters and volunteers that the big toy would be built in September of this year. In Keizer, we endeavor to keep our promises. That promise is in danger of being broken if the council and the playground task force insist on rushing the urban growth boundary expansion to site it in a location that was never on the consultant’s or task force’s original plan.

The wheels of government turn slowly; it’s hard to envision all of the steps of the UGB expansion process falling perfectly into place without any hiccups.  The city and playground backers should realize this and get the project going.

As soon as possible the city council should give approval for the playground at the chosen site inside the park; stop the rush on the UGB expansion for the 28 acres of the orchard into the park.

As the proposed design shows, the playground is large and will become a destination for children of all ages. Placing it for maximum visibility doesn’t make sense down at the park: the park sits at the end of dead end road. Visibility is important to attract passers-by—that’s not the case at Keizer Rapids Park. Even located on Chemawa Road in the northside of the park, people won’t see it unless they are already heading for the park.

In these early months of the year the focus should be on the fund raising for the project, which includes soliciting donations as well as garnering grants.

Let’s stop this folly of getting a UGB expansion at the park and let the Community Development Department work on the projects that are already in the pipeline.