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By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Cooper Hurt, 10, had a clear notion of what he wanted in a new play structure at Meadows Park in north Keizer.
“I want a little balcony that you can just look out from. That would be cool,” said Cooper.
However, even more than that, Cooper and his 12-year-old sister, Riley, want accessibility. Riley is such an advocate for accessibility issues she made it the focus of her TEDxSalem talk earlier this month. Yeah, a TEDx talk. At age 12.
“The way the park is now, my mom has trouble getting to it,” said Riley, whose mother, Jill, uses a wheelchair. “When we were younger she had trouble watching us.”
She also wanted swings and things to climb, but they were a distant second.
Riley and Cooper were just two of about 20 Meadows-area residents who turned out at a information-gathering forum regarding the future of the park. It was held at the Keizer Civic Center Tuesday, Nov. 28.
The air at the forum was best described as eager. That may be because Keizer Public Works Director Bill Lawyer and Parks Supervisor Robert Johnson can barely contain their own excitement.
“I am extremely happy to be having this conversation and it’s something I’ve looked forward to. We haven’t been able to have it because we couldn’t afford it,” said Johnson.
The stick stirring the pot is a parks services fee the city of Keizer began collecting in November. Moving forward, Keizer residents will be charged $4 per month to pay for parks maintenance and improvements. An additional $4-per-month fee is being charged for police services.
Even though the decision to enact the fees was made over the summer, Lawyer said there are still surreal moments.
“We’re able to talk about doing things that I never expected we’d be able to do,” Lawyer said.
The forum on Meadows Park made for an exciting kick-off point.
“We got nothing but positive feedback tonight,” Johnson said. “And we plan to try to incorporate as many of the suggestions as we can.”
In addition to Cooper’s and Riley’s votes for accessibility, the list of requests in a revamped park included: swings, a climbing wall, a gate at the River Road access point, spinner seats, a merry-go-round, monkey bars and a parkour/ninja course.
Lawyer said he’s aiming for a new structure and surface in the area of about $170,000. A large part of that cost will be the installation of the new surface itself. While it’s called a pour-in-place surface, it actually has to be mixed one wheelbarrow at a time and then smoothed, by hand, with 16-inch trowels. It will, of course, be wheelchair accessible.
The next steps in the process will be to define the specific amenities that will be in the final structure and then put it out for bid in early 2018.
The city will also be investing in new, ADA-accessible (Americans with Disabilities Act) pathways at Meadows, but that portion of the work will be packaged with similar work in other parks around the city and put out for a separate bid.
In addition to the Meadows Park plan, Keizer is also hiring two new parks employees to help the one-and-a-half existing ones keep their heads above water.
While he has yet to review the 46 applications he’s received for the two jobs, Lawyer’s goal is to have the new hands hired by February and trained by March when the busy parks season begins.
“I personally feel a lot of pressure on the parks division to perform with the collection of the parks fee. The community deserves to see something and I’m taking an aggressive stance so we can show them what they are getting for their money,” he said.