By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Even while taking down 198 trees last week, Jerry Nuttbrock could see what the orchards would soon look like.
Nuttbrock was recruited by Clint Holland to help clear out space in the orchards at Keizer Rapids Park, where community volunteers are expected to build the Big Toy play structure over a five-day period in June.
Though the construction itself won’t be happening for another three months, the area has to be prepped for the work. Holland long ago pledged a team of volunteers to help get the ground ready.
“Whatever Clint tells me to do, I do,” Nuttbrock said with a grin on Feb. 26. “I’m removing the trees for the Big Toy. I will later bring in another machine. For the trees that are close together, I can carry two at a time.”
While the machine Nuttbrock used last Thursday morning – rented from Hertz Equipment Rental in Keizer – picked up the trees like they were Lincoln Logs, he brought in a different Caterpillar machine later to push all items toward a big pile.
Cutting nearly 200 trees may sound like a lot, but the orchard has far more trees than that. Mark Caillier, general coordinator for the Big Toy project, marked all the trees for Nuttbrock to cut while Tony Weathers trimmed the trees, following a suggestion from Robert Johnson, parks supervisor for the city.
“Trimming of the trees was done in the last three weeks,” Caillier said later in the morning. “They made a special effort to make sure our area was done for this. This phase is Clint’s baby.”
Nuttbrock said volunteers from the Salem Alliance Church’s Royal Order of the Red Suspenders were on tap to cut the trees up for firewood.
“They will chop it and haul it out,” Nuttbrock said. “It’s a win-win deal.”
Holland has nothing but praise for the work Nuttbrock does.
“Jerry has the brain to see things other people just can’t see,” Holland said. “He brought the dirt in for the amphitheater to get that project going. I bring in the best guys for projects.”
Nuttbrock enjoys doing such work.
“We’ve done some great projects before,” he said. “Clint and I are a team. I’ve been in this business for 40-plus years. In this business, you’re always thinking ahead. I’m visualizing where the parking lot and where the Big Toy will go.
“This is going to be a great amenity of the park,” Nuttbrock added. “What I like is it’s primarily being done with volunteers. This whole park was done with volunteers. Whatever comes in the future will be done by volunteer efforts as well.”
Trees at the perimeters were marked with ribbons, letting Nuttbrock know the outside dimensions for the area.
“The parking lot will come to here,” he said, pointing to an area he had just cut trees from. “The Big Toy will go out from here to the south.”
Like Holland, Nuttbrock had some question about taking out so many trees from a working orchard, but he looks at the big picture.
“In the end, it’s for the kids,” Nuttbrock said. “It’s why I am here.”
For Nuttbrock, taking down a lot of trees is no work at all.
“I’ve taken a lot of orchards out, so 200 trees is not much,” he said. “I don’t even have to think about it. Usually I’m thinking about something else.”
Once the trees were cleared out, a big sign denoting the area as the future home of the Big Toy was put up. Caillier said 600 yards of gravel will be brought in later, roughly a half-foot thick.
During Tuesday’s Community Build Task Force meeting, Holland said the four days spent clearing the trees went well.
“You couldn’t ask for anything better,” Holland said. “The weather cooperated. If you hired people to get this done, you’d be talking one-third to one-quarter of the total project cost. We’re going to try to get the water in, maybe electrical, and the parking lot.”
CBTF chair Marlene Quinn was among those expressing appreciation.
“I want to give kudos to Clint and his group for the time spent out there,” Quinn said as former mayor Lore Christopher gave Holland a kiss. “Fantastic Clint, thank you so much.”