By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Keizer has its own version of Ralph Nader.
Nader was a safety advocate who gained national fame in the 1960s with his book Unsafe at Any Speed, declaring the Chevrolet Corvair was dangerous.
Eamon Bishop did his best Nader impression at Tuesday’s Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting in declaring that seven Keizer parks must be closed immediately due to safety hazards.
Keizer has 19 parks, but Bishop only called for the closure of seven because those are the only ones he has inspected so far.
“Can the parks stay open?” Bishop asked rhetorically. “Look at the laws of liability. You can’t let someone play until they are fixed, now that you know about it. There are some missing fasteners and improper fasteners. There are strangulation hazards. There’s a drowning hazard at Bob Newton Park, with slides out of alignment. It takes only one inch of water to drown a child in the standing rain. We need to close the parks until these things are fixed.”
Bishop said his research started when he took offense to Parks Board member Richard Walsh’s recent comments in the Keizertimes about neighborhood parks not being used as much in Keizer anymore. Bishop went to his neighborhood park – Bob Newton Park – and started exploring.
“It had conditions that looked to me to be significant safety hazards,” Bishop said. “So I went online and grabbed a copy of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Public Playground Safety Handbook and took inventory of what I saw. And then I went through the CPSC handbook and confirmed that a number of conditions existing in the park were indeed defined as hazards, each of those being classified as conditions that could contribute to physical injury or death.”
Bishop said he found CPSC issues in each park and made a list of the issues.
For example, at Bob Newton Park, he found issues like chipped and flaking paint that he commercially tested to have lead content, drowning hazard, corroded parts, no Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access and a public health hazard due to no sanitary restroom.
He found items like laceration hazards and missing or loose fasteners multiple times, as well as pinching or crushing hazards. At Claggett Creek Park alone he found entrapment, laceration, extreme fall, impalement, tripping, strangling, pinching/crushing, climbing, drowning and overhead hazards. He also found an issue at the Big Toy play structure at KRP, with unprotected climbing conditions on the fire truck.
To test the paint at various places, Bishop said he used test kits.
Bishop, a retired police officer who noted he used to do construction work, opined the city should not submit a grant request for the next phase of the Big Toy and instead apply for a grant to be used for park renovations and repairs.
“You do good work and I appreciate all the work you do,” Bishop told Parks Board members. “Even you Mr. Walsh, though I think you are narrow minded.”
Dylan Juran checked to make sure he understood Bishop correctly.
“So all seven of these should be closed immediately, with caution tape and chains that say they are closed?” Juran asked.
“Yes,” Bishop replied.
“And we should immediately hire professionals and specialists to study all the parks, then post all the problems on our website?” Juran further asked.
“Yes,” Bishop again replied.
“And we should cease getting any grants and divert efforts to repairs, instead of capital improvements?” Juran asked.
“Yes,” Bishop said.
J.T. Hager had a question for Bishop.
“What is your background?” Hager asked. “How did you come up with this?”
“I’m a retired police officer and firefighter,” Bishop said.
Hager appreciated the information, but didn’t know what the next step should be.
“I think there are some things we have to study and research,” Hager said. “It’s a little strong at this point to ask us to shut down a whole bunch of parks. That (repair work) would also cost money. We’ve never had close to enough to do maintenance. You’re saying we have to cough up a whole bunch of money. I’m a little concerned that you’re making a pretty strong request, but I do appreciate the concern.”
Bishop acknowledged the lack of funds, but emphasized the need to get grants for repairs.
“If you know where grants are available and can help us write grants, we would appreciate it,” Hager said.
Bishop said he’s “written too many grants” to want to help out, but said the same program the city is applying for with the Big Toy grant would have money for repairs.
Walsh, a Parks Board member as well as an attorney, said the information should be referred to city attorney Shannon Johnson.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” Walsh said. “I don’t know if it’s illegal having a two-inch puddle and if that needs police tape.”
Walsh noted much of the parks money comes from the general fund, but the largest percentage of that fund goes to the police department.
“We would have to take from police officers,” Walsh said. “How many police officers do we have to let go to pay for this?”
Bishop said part of his reason for looking into things is KRP.
“I’ve never been wanting to spend as much as we have at KRP,” he said. “Then we want to spend $1 million on this next Big Toy phase. We’re liable for all of the parks.”
Scott Klug found that background strange.
“It seems to me that you might be going about stopping money going to Keizer Rapids in an odd way,” Klug said. “That money comes from a different source than you want, a different grant. You’re saying it’s the same pool of money?”
“I assume it is the same pool of money,” Bishop replied.
“So it’s your assuming,” Klug said.
Hager suggested Bishop should help find a solution.
“You’re saying have perfect parks or don’t have them,” Hager said. “You bring the money in. I’ve got the suitcases; you bring the money in.”
Clint Holland said parks supporters need to plead their case to the budget committee in the spring.
“Eventually something is going to happen and we’re really going to pay for it,” Holland said. “We really need to show how underfunded we are. It’s time we look at the main problem. We need to make sure we have the money so kids are safe in any park we have.”