By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
The plan all along was to have more trees around the Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park.
Kevin Pack with Optimum Learning Environment (OLE), a charter school within Keizer’s Forest Ridge Elementary, was looking for a place to put in new trees.
When Pack, president of OLE, got together with Keizer Parks supervisor Robert Johnson, both needs were met.
On April 28, OLE students came to the Big Toy and helped with the planting of four new trees. Two of the trees are Japanese Stewartia, while the other two are Weeping Giant Sequoias. Johnson and Pack did the planting before students came, assisted by Public Works employee Don Shelton and his 10-year-old grandson Hayden Shaw – after all, it was take your child to work day.
Once students arrived, they helped fill in dirt around the trees and then played at the play structure until doing presentations to project sponsors.
“I like it,” Johnson said after the trees were planted. “It sets off the corner here really well. It looks like a playground entrance now. It was always an idea I had to have a grand entrance to the Big Toy, but there was no timeline.”
Last year OLE students planted a new tree elsewhere in KRP. Not long after that, Pack called Johnson to talk about where to go this year.
“I contacted Robert last May about wanting to do something,” Pack said. “He made the suggestion of putting in sequoias here. Robert was such an easy guy to work with. He’s so kind and respectful.”
At the time, the Big Toy was about a month away from being built but Johnson could already see the future need.
“Forest Ridge wanted to plant trees and asked where,” Johnson recalled. “I said the Big Toy would be perfect. It looks way better with these in. It looks way more inviting now. It will attract your eyes to the left when you’re going down Walsh Way.”
The city helped sponsor the project, with trees coming from Northwest Shade Trees in Brooks, with Brooks Tree Farm delivering the trees.
“The kids donated money to make it happen,” Pack said. “They put in $600 of their own money. That helped pay for signage and a gift to the city to maintain the trees. It was quite a bit they did. It helps to contribute to their ownership and investment. They are really putting their effort into this. It’s continuing our investment into Keizer parks.”
Pack said Northwest Shade Tree cut the price in half upon learning it was for a school project.
“They gave us an incredible deal,” Pack said.
As he looked at the finished project, pride was evident on Park’s face.
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said.