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Category: Big Toy project

Big Toy group hits money goal

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By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

The funding goal for the Big Toy project has been reached, but the work isn’t done.

The slimmed down Community Build Task Force met last week, now down to seven members. Marlene Parsons is still chairing the meetings, which will continue on a monthly basis for at least the next couple of months. A grand opening for the Big Toy is taking place on Saturday, Aug. 29 from 2 to 5 p.m.

Figures provided by Janet Carlson showed the fundraising group raised $321,224.41, or 101 percent of the goal of $319,009.80. That figure was down from the original goal of $416,000, which was lowered by 25 percent in February as the surface was changed to engineered wood fibers.

Cutting the poured-in place rubber surface meant $105,000 was cut from the budget. One of the main objectives for continuing the CBTF is to pursue grants and other funding to get the surface in the future.

“We are at 101 percent of the goal,” Parsons said. “I want to see that in print. We did it, again.”

Carlson said all of $319,009 in the budget was used. That includes $198,618 for construction materials, $38,633.19 to project consultant Leathers and Associates, $32,695.13 in contingency funds, $31,717.82 for the parking lots and paths, $11,140 for food and lodging, $3,770 for donor recognition and $1,725 for a permit.

Funding received to date includes $100,000 from the city of Keizer in the form of system development charges, $87,000 in grants, $76,364.85 in component sales, $29,000 in donated items, $14,423.04 in picket sales and $13,779 in cash contributions.

The biggest grants were $30,000 from Marion County, $25,600 from Keizer Rotary (Rotary also paid for some components), $15,000 from the Oregon Community Foundation and $10,000 from the Keizer Parks Foundation.

Cash contributions were highlighted by $5,000 from Portland General Electric, in addition to $2,500 from Mountain West Investment Corporation and $1,000 each from Comcast, Lakepoint Community Church and Ron and Judy Brown.

Component sales were highlighted by $7,000 each from Keizer Fire District and Marion County Fire District No. 1 for the fire station and misters, $6,000 from the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes for the volcano slide, $5,000 from Keizer Elks for the Wallace House log cabin and $5,000 from Uptown Music for the music station.

“We still have picket sales coming in, at least two to four a week,” Carlson said. “We ordered 365 more. That’s already been included on the sheet. If we sell more, that is more for revenue.”

Carlson later submitted revised forms showing $322,992.76 had been raised, as a couple of benches were not in the earlier numbers.

Parsons asked what the strategy was to pay for an upgraded surface.

“A pour-in-place will be $120,000 to $180,000,” Parsons said. “What will be our strategy now? Will we rely on a grant?”

Carlson and Richard Walsh, members of the fundraising group from the start, said that is indeed the case.

Last year, project leaders worked with city leaders and applied for a $150,000 Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Local Government Grant but were denied. That grant will likely be applied for again next year.

Stitt happy to see Big Toy happen

Will Stitt (left) introduces his sons to Meredith Coy’s daughters after the Big Toy design day in November 2013 at Keizer Civic Center. Stitt brought the idea to the city a year earlier. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)
Will Stitt (left) introduces his sons to Meredith Coy’s daughters after the Big Toy design day in November 2013 at Keizer Civic Center. Stitt brought the idea to the city a year earlier. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Will Stitt’s son had to wait nearly a year.

Before Liam Stitt turned 6 last September, dad figured he had the perfect present: a new playground at Keizer Rapids Park called the Big Toy.

While such a structure was already in the park’s master plan, it was Will Stitt who pushed the idea forward in late 2012. He presented some ideas to Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer. Lawyer encouraged Stitt to attend a Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting in November 2012. Stitt did and proposed some ideas, including research he had done.

The following spring, it was decided the Big Toy would be built in September 2014. Later, a new site within the park was selected, necessitating a delay to this month.

“It was very disappointing because we could have had this done last September, which would have been right around my son’s birthday,” Stitt said June 12. “I had told him, ‘It looks like you’re getting a new playground for your birthday.’ But I think this is a great site and it will work really well. Yeah, it’s disappointing, but now that’s all gone and it’s just the excitement about how close we really are.”

Stitt was part of a group of volunteers that showed up each day to build the 15,000 square foot play structure. When the building actually started June 10, the plan was to have 150 volunteers per shift, three shifts per day, getting done in time for a soft opening at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 14. A delay pushed the opening back to June 20.

Last Friday, Stitt talked about getting the project started. He has been credited as the person who truly helped get the project going. What’s telling is how he started his response.

“First of all, if I hadn’t, someone would have come up with the idea so I don’t know if I can take much credit for this,” he said.

A look at the history, however, shows why Stitt gets the credit. With the birth of his first son (now 6, while his younger son is 4), Stitt looked around for big play structures.

“I had looked at other cities like Lincoln City and Astoria that had really cool big play structures,” he said as the sounds of construction filled the background. “I really liked those. I was looking around Salem/Keizer for those and we really didn’t have anything like that.”

Stitt looked around at more big structures and noticed a similar style. Then he visited a friend in Oak Harbor, Wash., a city that had just put in a play structure with help from consultant Leathers and Associates.

“They went into the schools, the got a lot of input from the community and (my friend) was telling me it sounded like a great idea,” Stitt said. “It seemed like a really good fit for Keizer Rapids. If we were going to put in a big playground in, this was the place we were going to do it.”

Stitt got some information from Oak Harbor and called up Leathers for some information. He then contacted Lawyer.

Stitt emphasized while that research may have helped get the warm response, there was more.

“I think what’s more important is there was already the desire to do something really unique and special here,” he said. “That didn’t come from me. That was there from Rich Walsh and a lot of other people on the board that really wanted to do something unique. Rich said that he had seen a playground (in Lincoln City) and he knew he wanted to do something like that. That just happened to be a Leathers project.”

In late 2013, Leathers designer picked the “Big Tree” site near the boat ramp and more than 3,000 Keizer students submitted design ideas. In January 2014, then-mayor Lore Christopher suggested a move to the filbert orchards in KRP, which were not in the city’s Urban Growth Boundary at the time of the suggestion. Going through that process meant delaying the project nine months.

Stitt, whose family commitments forced him to leave the Community Build Task Force last year, was just happy for the build dates to finally arrive.

“It’s incredible,” he said of the building process. “You’re assigned to a little team and you’re working. I’ve been working with a group of six to eight guys and we’re working in our little area. You get focused on working on that. You’ve got your head down for two or three hours. Then you look up and you look around and things are changing all around you. It’s incredible how fast things are really changing. It’s really exciting just to see everything change so fast.”

Stitt noted his sons missed being able to help dad build like they do at home, but they were at the daycare run by Shelly Paddock while the volunteers build the Big Toy.

Given his involvement with the start of the project, did Stitt expect his sons to be among the first on the playground once complete?

“I expect me to be one of the first on the playground when it opens,” Stitt said with a laugh. “But yeah, I’m sure they will be, yeah.”

WE DID IT: The Big Toy

How the Big Toy site looked the evening of June 9. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
How the Big Toy site looked the evening of June 9. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

There was plenty of pride and spirit on display as the Big Toy was built starting last Wednesday, June 10.

There were also the volunteers, completing Keizer’s motto.

The only problem was not quite enough volunteers.


As a result, the scheduled 5 p.m. soft opening on Sunday, June 14 didn’t take place. Instead, project leaders Mark Caillier and Marlene Parsons, as well as Keizer mayor Cathy Clark, thanked the large group of volunteers on hand for their efforts and pieces of cake were distributed.

The volunteers then headed over to the food tent organized by Dave Bauer, with some returning to do more work on the Big Toy after dinner. Keizer CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) provided security overnight each night, while Makita lent a number of tools and Hertz Equipment Rentals provided a generator.

A smaller group of volunteers returned Monday. By the end of the day Caillier, the project coordinator, announced more wood fiber chips needed to be ordered and likely wouldn’t come in until at least Thursday, June 18. That left the opening date somewhat in flux, as the playground can’t be opened until the wood chips and the other 23 items on the final punch list are done.

“We can’t open until we get more wood chips,” Caillier said Monday afternoon. “We used less rock than expected, so we ended up using more wood fiber chips than expected because we didn’t meet the height requirement. We are short of materials. It takes three days to get more material, so we probably won’t see it until Thursday.”

Late Tuesday afternoon, Caillier had another update.

“We will have the wood fiber Friday afternoon,” Caillier said. “We will open the playground at 9 a.m. Saturday.”

In the months leading up to the build, having enough volunteers had been a concern. Project leaders were hoping for 150 volunteers per shift, with three shifts per day. Ron and Kim Freeman headed up the effort to sign up volunteers, but the reassurance from officials at project consultant Leathers and Associates was a majority of volunteers usually walked in without signing up prior.

In Keizer’s case volunteers did indeed walk up, but not enough. A lack of bodies put the project behind early.

“We were short on volunteers,” Caillier said on Thursday evening. “We wanted 150 per shift and were 50 percent off. Right now we could use all the help we can get.”

Kim Freeman noted there were some big groups that came. Boys and Girls Club came Thursday with 70 people, while Lakepoint Community Church and Dayspring Fellowship Church both had big groups Friday evening.

Some city employees took vacation days to be at the site every day, while others were paid by the city for working there.

How the Big Toy site looked exactly a week later, from a similar vantage point. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
How the Big Toy site looked exactly a week later, from a similar vantage point. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Throughout the five scheduled days of the build, Shelly Paddock provided daycare and Carolyn Ream worked with youth such as Anthony Divine.

“It’s something to do other than being home,” Divine said.

By Friday, the playground was taking shape, though the project was still behind due to a shortage of volunteers.

“We’re still behind, but we’re making up ground,” Caillier said Friday evening.

Caillier noted Doug Hanauer, the lead consultant on hand from Leathers, was constantly on the phone with co-workers about making changes on the fly. Other issues included a tube on the treehouse structure being too long – it had to be cut to fit – and the level of gravel not being high enough. Plus there were users not familiar with some of the tools.

“We’ve broken more than 100 drill bits so far,” Caillier said.

Two construction captains, Steve Ray and David Louden, were injured during the build.

By late Sunday afternoon, it became apparent the 5 p.m. goal would not be met.

“We had half as many volunteers as we expected, but they worked twice as hard as expected,” said Caillier, who noted work continued until about 10 p.m. both Friday and Saturday in an effort to make up time.

Before he left Monday, Hanauer expressed his appreciation for the work volunteers did, though he joked about Caillier’s math.

“The volunteers we had here were phenomenal,” Hanauer said. “They were good workers, easy and friendly to work with. They did more than average. But they didn’t do twice as much, because we were four or five hours away (from opening Sunday). We didn’t miss it by much. There are just so many variables on a project like this.”

Though some parts are common to different projects, Hanauer noted no two Leathers playgrounds are identical.

“Each one is totally different, though some components are the same,” said Hanauer, who has supervised more than 200 builds in 23 years. “There are a lot of swings on this one. The kids in Keizer wanted a volcano and a castle. Probably the volcano is the most unique part of this one.”

In addition to a structure sponsored by the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, the Keizer Big Toy also has references to McNary High School, a steamboat with a paddle wheel, a beaver bar and a fire truck mister sponsored by Marion County Fire District No. 1. Another unique feature is the Wallace House structure.

“Kids want something from their own environment,” Hanauer said. “Cookie cutter companies can’t have it reflect the community like we can. It looks pretty darn good.”

Brad and Meredith Coy worked on the Big Toy while their four children were with Paddock.

“We weren’t really building a play structure, we were really building a community,” Brad Coy said. “That we were highly successful at.”

Meredith Coy predicted regular trips to the park this summer.

“We are super excited,” she said. “I’m sure we will be here every day. They feel this is their playground.”

Clark and every councilor talked about the project near the end of Monday’s Keizer City Council meeting, with several getting emotional.

“One thing I want to say is we did it,” said Parsons, who chaired the Community Build Task Force. “This has been a roller coaster for two years. To come to what we’ve accomplished is a great thing.”

Clark choked up as she echoed those thoughts.

“You go out there now, it’s the most amazing playground I’ve ever seen,” the mayor said. “We did it. I’m so moved by what we did as a community. It will be there for so many years for people to enjoy. We all own a piece of that. We can look at that with so much pride.”

By late Tuesday afternoon, Caillier said those still working on the project were getting through the punch list “pretty quick.” Final coats of paint and sealer had to be applied, a steering wheel was needed for the Ford F100 and some sharp edges had to be smoothed.

“I believe we’ll be ready to open on Saturday,” Caillier said.

Big Toy build underway at KRP

Rob Miller, in charge of tools for the Big Toy project, hauls some equipment Tuesday evening at the build site. Building began Wednesday and should conclude Sunday. For a story on feeding volunteers, see page A5. Check out Keizertimes on Facebook and YouTube for photos and videos throughout the building process. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Rob Miller, in charge of tools for the Big Toy project, hauls some equipment Tuesday evening at the build site. Building began Wednesday and should conclude Sunday. For a story on feeding volunteers, see page A5. Check out Keizertimes on Facebook and YouTube for photos and videos throughout the building process. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

The big week is here for the Big Toy.

Hordes of community volunteers started showing up at the play structure site Wednesday morning, in the filbert orchards at Keizer Rapids Park.

A playground was part of the KRP Master Plan approved in 2008. The idea for what became the Big Toy was brought up at a Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting in late 2012, with a Community Build Task Force formed shortly after.

After a couple of delays, including one while the final site had to become part of the city through an Urban Growth Boundary process, all of the months of planning are set to come to fruition.

Construction started at 8 a.m. Wednesday and goes until 9 p.m. through Saturday, plus most of the day Sunday. A soft opening of the play structure is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday evening.

On Tuesday evening, the 15 construction captains met with the three consultants from project consultant Leathers and Associates. Doug Hanauer, Dave Johnson and Aaron Chandler each arrived in Keizer on Tuesday at different times.

Hanauer emphasized the need to effectively utilize volunteers.

“Once you learn our idiosyncrasies, it will be the same thing over and over again,” he said. “You’ll learn what to do with fasteners, what to do with corners. You learn all that stuff, then if you show three crews of three volunteers, it will be faster than you doing it yourself. Remember to delegate.”

Skilled volunteers – those who can cut a line with a circular saw – get red name tags, while “unskilled” volunteers get blue. Volunteers are put together in groups of three, with at least one skilled person.

Hanauer encouraged construction captains to keep an eye out for trouble.

“Everyone shares in the responsibility,” he said. “We want you to watch. If you see anything you think is unsafe, just stop them. Also, use the right tool for the job. Sometimes you’ll see people sawing a board between two saw horses. If you see that, stop them. If they get into an argument with you, come get Dave and he’ll straighten them up.”

Johnson noted the work is different from what most people are familiar with.

“We have volunteers not used to working outside all day long,” he said. “The same may be true for you. Don’t be afraid to take breaks. Stay hydrated. If you’re not going bathroom enough, you need to be drinking more water. Runners will be bringing water.”

Beth Melendy noted the Keizer CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) trailer has air conditioning and people can lay down inside if necessary.

Sunscreen will be available at the volunteer sign-in area. For safety, no open toed shoes or flip flops will be allowed.

Dave Bauer said he has food lined up for each day (see related story, pg. A5), with the goal of getting everyone fed in 30 minutes.

What if too many volunteers show up?

“We’ll deal with it,” Hanauer said. “It’s the nature of these things.”

Project general coordinator Mark Caillier said fences, poles and posts went in quicker than expected last week, thanks in part to good soil and plenty of volunteers.

“This has come together really well,” Caillier said.

Hanauer has been overseeing such builds for more than 20 years and estimates he’s been part of 230 builds.

“This is extremely well organized,” Hanauer said. “You guys did a good job getting ready.”

Having such an experienced consultant is a comfort for Caillier.

“Doug’s done literally hundreds of these,” Caillier said. “You can’t put a value to it. What’s new to us is routine to him.”

With enough material on hand to build the equivalent of two homes over the five day period, tents are set up in various areas. Most building-related activities take place at or near the actual Big Toy site, while the eating area and children’s area are by the amphitheater.

One unique aspect to the site is the trailer filled with tools donated by Makita.

“Eight years ago my son needed to meet someone at the Atlanta, Georgia airport while in his uniform,” Caillier said. “This guy sees the name and says ‘We’re probably relatives.’ It turns out we’re talking to Randy Caillier, a vice president at Makita. We had no contact for years. Rob Miller thought he had a couple of lines for tools on this project, but they fell through. I told Rob I have this long lost relative. I introduced Randy to Rob and the next thing you know, Makita sponsors our tools.”

Build time around corner for Big Toy

The Big Toy site in the orchards at Keizer Rapids Park will be a busy place a week from now. (KEIZERTIMES file photo)
The Big Toy site in the orchards at Keizer Rapids Park will be a busy place a week from now. (KEIZERTIMES file photo)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

More than two years later, there was a sense of nearing the end of the road.

Tuesday night marked the last regular meeting of the Community Build Task Force, formed in early 2013 as plans got underway for what became known as the Big Toy play structure.

The Big Toy is being built by hundreds of community volunteers over a five day period next Wednesday, June 10 through Sunday, June 14 at Keizer Rapids Park.

Those wanting to volunteer can sign up at www.keizerbigtoy.org or can show up between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on any of the five build days, for any amount of time.

With the build just a week away, project general coordinator Mark Caillier gave an update on where things stand.

“The site is ready,” Caillier said. “It’s ready to go. It looks great.”

Tents were expected to be put up Thursday afternoon, with posts being put up over the weekend. Three semis full of material arrived at the site on Monday.

“We got the slides, tubes, iron, lumber, all kinds of stuff,” Caillier said.

Keizer Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) will be helping with security, first aid and parking during the build. There will be signs for parking and each tent will have signs to make it clear what will be happening where.

Caillier said there will be 150 parking spaces, plus overflow parking by the far side of the dog park and by the amphitheater, in the area where the Big Toy was originally going to be built.

As he did the day before, Caillier emphasized when volunteers are most needed.

“Right now we really need Wednesday through Friday,” he said. “Everything we do in those three days sets the tone for how much will get done.”

Ron and Kim Freeman, who are coordinating volunteers, both noted volunteers are indeed filling slots for the first three days.

“The majority of phone calls have been for those days,” Ron Freeman said. “A lot of volunteers are signed up. Kim’s been making a lot of calls and getting multiple shifts from a lot of people.”

Freeman noted 100 new volunteers signed up at the Big Toy booth during last month’s Iris Festival. As of Tuesday, he said 330 volunteers were signed up. Project leaders have previously said there are about 1,500 total shifts to fill.

“We got a great response from the Iris Festival booth,” Freeman said. “Tanya (Hamilton) and Meredith (Coy) handed out thousands of fliers during the parade. We’re looking for a big push. People can just show up on the day of the build. Tell your friends to sign up online. It’s such an easy process.”

Volunteers will be fed throughout the five-day build.

Dave Bauer told the Keizertimes he has all the food service workers he needs to ensure volunteers are well fed. Menus are set, supplies have been donated and now all that needs to be done is the cooking.

“Thanks to several churches and many merchants, there will be breakfast, lunch and dinner all five days of the build,” Bauer said. “Construction volunteers will be getting a little bit of everything from down home cooking to internationally inspired meals. It’s now time for the action to begin.”

Though funds will continue to be raised after the play structure is built, fundraising co-chair Janet Carlson said 86 percent of the $319,009.80 needed for the project has been raised, with $45,644 left to raise.

“If we raise more than needed, that will just be a down payment for the rubber surface in the next round,” the county commissioner said.

Caillier said Makita is donating a number of tools, but volunteers are encouraged to bring tools such as tape measures and hammers.

“We have one week, guys,” said Marlene Parsons, the newly married chair of the task force. “This is so exciting.”

Project leaders will be meeting at the site at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening to go over last minute details.

Dee Moore contributed to this story.

Big Toy pesticide concerns muted

Some concerns have been expressed about pesticides sprayed on trees in the orchards around the Big Toy site at Keizer Rapids Park, but the project is still taking place next week. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)
Some concerns have been expressed about pesticides sprayed on trees in the orchards around the Big Toy site at Keizer Rapids Park, but the project is still taking place next week. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

When the orchard site was discussed as a possible location for the Big Toy play structure last year, most of the concern was the timing of getting the land within city limits.

A less verbalized concern was the spraying of pesticides in the orchards where the filberts are harvested and the potential impact that would have on the health of those using the play structure.

The Big Toy is being constructed by an army of volunteers starting next Wednesday, June 10. The five-day build is expected to conclude with a soft opening of the play structure at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 14.

For the most part, concerns of the pesticides are muted.

Not entirely, however.

In March 2012, Tony Weathers with Willamette Mission Farm, Inc. entered into a five-year contract with the city of Keizer to lease the filbert orchards for $10,000 a year. Weathers keeps all the profit he makes by harvesting the filberts.

As part of the harvesting, Weathers sprays pesticides on the orchards three times a year.

Since the Big Toy is being built in part of the orchards used for farming, a concern has been expressed about the possibility of those pesticides spreading to the play structure.

The person apparently most concerned? Weathers. But despite repeated messages, Weathers only briefly talked to the Keizertimes last week about what his concerns are.

“My concern is my ass being sued,” Weathers said before heading into a meeting. “My concern is someone using the toy when the park is closed, get flu and found out I sprayed. I have too much to lose. I informed the city I would like to get out of the lease.”

City attorney Shannon Johnson avoided questions of whether Weathers would be able to get out of the lease, or if he’s already been released from the lease.

Others aren’t as concerned.

Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, showed the Keizertimes a June 2010 environmental site assessment report from BB&A Environmental that focused on conditions of the 28 acre property before it was purchased by the city. Samples were collected on May 21, 2010 and analyzed for any recognized environmental conditions (REC).

“It did not identify any obvious contamination,” Lawyer said.

The analysis looked primarily at how much DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), DDE (dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene) and DDD (dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane) were in the soil.

Small amounts of each were found in three of the four sections, but all well below Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) standards. One area, the west portion, was labeled as non-detected. That’s the area where the Big Toy is being built.

Lawyer believes it’s safe to conclude there are no safety concerns at the Big Toy site due to pesticides. He points to another reason why Weathers wants out of the lease.

“It is the fear of a litigious society,” Lawyer said. “It’s the fear of being sued when you’re doing nothing wrong. The Big Toy area is shown as non-detected for all the particles.”

The issue of pesticides in relation to the Big Toy site was brought up a couple of times last year. For example, last spring Jim Taylor addressed the topic.

“When (Weathers) sprays, he would let us know,” the former councilor said at the time. “We would just close it for a couple of hours. We would do it early in the morning so it won’t be an issue. I’ve never heard of complaints about spraying by the house out there. It’s not an issue.”

Richard Walsh, who lives right by the orchard, mentioned the topic at a meeting last fall.

“No one has spent more hours in the orchard area than I have,” Walsh said at a Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting. “I haven’t seen it be a problem. I’ve been out there most every night the last couple of years. The play structure will probably be closed the days they do the spraying.”

Mark Caillier, general coordinator for the Big Toy project, said there will be a 40-foot buffer around the play structure and a sprinkler system in the center of the toy just for that reason.

“We did include the sprinkler system to wash away any fungicides,” Caillier said. “If they need to close the toy for a couple of days (at spraying time), they will do that. But once the stuff dries, from what I’ve been told it’s not going anywhere.”

For Caillier and other project leaders, the bigger concern has been getting enough people signed up for the five days of building. Volunteers can sign up at www.keizerbigtoy.org or they can show up between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. during any of the five days (see related story, pg. A2).

“We still need volunteers, especially for Wednesday through Friday,” Caillier said. “That really sets the tone for the last two days. There will be a lot of staining, painting, priming and clearcoating to do. We’ll get a lot of the material prep work done in the early days. It’s an assembly line manufacturing environment. Each group of three volunteers will have their parts to put together. We will have three shifts. People can come anytime they want.”

Three semi trucks of material were delivered to the site on Monday, with 52 saw horses made last Saturday to help the process. A parking area will be clearly marked along the Walsh Way entrance to the park, the road that leads to the boat ramp.

Caillier echoed Ron and Kim Freeman, who are in charge of volunteers, in predicting many people will simply show up without signing up in advance.

“The term used for that is spontaneous volunteerism, where people just show up and volunteer,” Caillier said. “That has been the trend in volunteer projects. We’ve seen it in Claggett Creek Watershed projects.”

Big Toy will change future of Keizer

By JANET CARLSON
LORE CHRISTOPHER

The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park is about building our community and improving our children’s health. As a community, we are concerned about childhood obesity that has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents. The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park will make possible healthy, active outdoor play for Keizer’s and Marion County’s children. This is the right project at the right time to improve the future of our children and families.

Keizer Rapids Parks began with the vision of connecting Keizer and the broader region with the Willamette River. Seventeen federal, state and local partners joined together, creating a 150-acre expanse of natural beauty for residents to enjoy.  Opening in 2006, the park features hiking trails, bike paths, a disc golf area, boat ramp, Keizer Rotary Amphitheater, and dog park. At Keizer Rapids Park you can already experience free concerts throughout the summer, RIVERfair,  and Shakespeare in the Park. And now, starting June 14, Keizer Rapids Park will proudly launch a destination play area reflecting our region’s unique history and culture.

More than 3,400 children from every Keizer elementary school engaged in focus groups where they drew pictures of what they wanted in a Big Toy play area. Landscape architects then took those drawings and spent hours compiling the children’s ideas, resulting in a playground design that features Keizer’s and Oregon’s history. Big Toy components include the Oregon Wallace House log cabin, Smith Rock climbing wall, an eastern Oregon dinosaur dig, Salem-Keizer Volcanoes slide, paddle boat, and Willamette Valley fire trucks with misters. Adaptive play equipment expands the Big Toy’s appeal to youth of all abilities and all ages.

The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park has strong support from area Rotary clubs, Chambers of Commerce, fire departments, Salem-Keizer Transit, neighborhood associations, and area businesses. We are grateful for financial support from the City of Keizer, Keizer Rotary Club, Marion County, Oregon Community Foundation, Keizer Parks Foundation, and many, many organizations and individuals who adopted components, bought a fence picket, or simply made a donation.

What we need now is manpower. On June 10 to14, more than 700 volunteers will build this 15,000 square foot playground. We expect to complete the build in just five days. No skills needed. We have skilled construction captains who will train and oversee each four-hour shift. In addition to construction help, we need volunteers for children’s activities, art, and child care.  We need help feeding 200 volunteers three meals each day. There is something for everyone to do.

Then join us at the soft opening in the late afternoon of June 14 or at a free concert honoring our volunteers at the Keizer Rotary Amphitheater on June 27.  You, your friends, your children, and your grandchildren can enjoy the new Big Toy playground, along with other park amenities, all through the summer. For more information, or to sign up for the community build, visit www.keizerbigtoy.org.

(Janet Carlson is a Marion County Commissioner; Lore Christopher is a former mayor of Keizer. Carlson can be reached at [email protected] and Christopher at [email protected])

Consultant likes Big Toy

(From left) Mark Caillier, Bill Hugill and Bill Lawyer share a laugh while looking at the Big Toy playground site on Tuesday. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
(From left) Mark Caillier, Bill Hugill and Bill Lawyer share a laugh while looking at the Big Toy playground site on Tuesday. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

The Big Toy project is in good shape.

That is the assessment of Bill Hugill, a consultant with New York-based Leathers and Associates, the consultant guiding the community build play structure to be built at Keizer Rapids Park over a five-day period from June 10 to 14.

Hugill was in Keizer on Tuesday to look at the play structure site, meet with members of various project committees and to give guidance on what should be done over the next two months before community volunteers come together to build the 15,000 square foot play structure.

Project general coordinator Mark Caillier picked up Hugill from the airport on Monday evening and brought the consultant to the Big Toy site Tuesday morning. Hugill then spent the afternoon with members of the various committees before wrapping up the day with a summary meeting.

“Everybody is on track and knows what they need to do,” Hugill said following the meeting. “Mark has done a good job getting everyone going in the right direction. There are some groups that have a bigger job ahead of them, but that’s the nature of the job. Some of the jobs are huge.”

Caillier expressed confidence as well after the meeting.

“I feel pretty darn good,” Caillier said.

Hugill said Leathers will typically send two consultants to a build site, though there might be a third coming to Keizer in two months.

As various people gathered at the Big Toy site in the morning, Caillier emphasized the need to keep an open mind.

“We’re going to learn a lot today,” he said. “A lot of things I thought we were doing right were not right.”

Hugill started at the site by having measurements taken and stakes put in to mark boundaries, while comparing what he was seeing with what the drawings showed.

Surveyor Robert Hamman with Multi-Tech Engineering said it could take two days to get staking done before the build begins on June 10, which is a Wednesday. That led to discussions about how early work should be done on the site before actual construction of the play structure commences.

“I have laid out some play areas, but not one with this much detail,” Hamman said.

Hugill wasn’t just looking at the site to make sure everything fit. He was also deciding where other things like a pre-fab area, food and snacks, volunteer check-in and parking should go. The level of detail went down to decisions like how many portable toilets should be brought in as well as how many tents and what size they should be.

The five days of construction are scheduled to be completed on a Sunday, leading to Caillier asking if the structure would be officially open on that day.

“I would say you could do a soft opening on Sunday,” Hugill said. “You can have a limited opening on Sunday evening, for maybe an hour.”

Volunteers are encouraged to sign up for one or more time slots on the project’s website at www.keizerbigtoy.org, in part so the food committee can know how much food to have on hand. Dave Bauer, who is heading the food team, told Hugill the Keizer Fire District is being used as a base for the food.

“The number of volunteers you’ll have is a crapshoot,” said Hugill, noting many times volunteers will show up unannounced.

Hugill, who made the trip to Keizer as a replacement for injured colleague Doug Hanauer, briefed with project manager Kyle Cundy at Leathers about a week before coming here. A representative from Leathers was last in Keizer back in November 2013.

“This is about figuring out the logistics, where things will be and how to get things on site,” Hugill said. “My job today is to fill in people on what their job will be. Everyone has a lot to do. It benefits everyone to be prepared.”

Organization Day big day for Big Toy

Organization Day on April 7 will be a big day for Keizer's Big Toy project.
Organization Day on April 7 will be a big day for Keizer’s Big Toy project.

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

For the Big Toy playground project, it’s time to get organized.

Construction consultant Bill Hugill from New York-based project consultant Leathers and Associates will be in Keizer Tuesday, April 7. Hugill will spend the day meeting with leaders of the project, including chairs of the various committees, two months before community volunteers are expected to come out in force to build the play structure at Keizer Rapids Park. Construction will take place over a five-day span, from June 10 to 14.

“Bill is one of our lead construction consultants,” said Kyle Cundy, the project manager at Leathers. Doug Hanuaer was going to be coming, but a medical situation led to a change.

“It’s organization day, which is very much what it sounds like,” Cundy said. “We will have our construction consultant meet with each committee, check their status and determine what they need to do between today and the build date. They will create a site layout plan. They’ll get things prepared and on track so we can kick off the build on the right foot. At the end of the day is a wrap up meeting. The consultant will give an update on where they’re at, an evaluation of their progress and will be there to answer questions. The construction captains who are new to the process will have questions of their own.”

A representative from Leathers was last in Keizer for Design Day back in November 2013, when designer Jane Lewis Holman and assistant Steven Meyer looked at possible sites for the play structure, coordinated meetings with elementary students in Keizer, incorporated all of the ideas into a design and finally presented their design to the community in an overflowing council chambers that same night.

Project general coordinator Mark Caillier, who was not on board at that time, noted Holman and Meyer were shown three sites around KRP when they visited. Of the three, Holman liked the original “big tree” site by the amphitheater best. That was the site until the Urban Growth Boundary was expanded last year and a spot in the orchards became the new site. Nearly 200 trees were cleared for the site a few weeks ago, as previously mentioned in the Keizertimes.

“They originally asked about the orchard site and were told it was not available because of zoning issues since it wasn’t in the UGB at the time,” Caillier said. “They had been to the site, but it was thrown out of consideration.”

Since the orchard site was selected last year, Caillier said Google map images, photos and maps of the area have been sent to people at Leathers.

Project leaders – in particular Caillier – have been in regular contact with Cundy via phone and e-mail, but that’s not quite the same as an in-person meeting.

“Physically being with somebody who has done a bunch of these, having him say things like ‘This is a really good idea’ or ‘I wouldn’t sug- gest that’ is big,” Caillier said. “We’ve had the phone conversations, but we’ve not sat down with an actual construction supervisor.”

According to the Leathers website, Hugill has been a playground consultant with the company for 13 years.

Cundy said Organization Day typically is done eight to 10 weeks before the build.

“It’s a very important part of the project,” she said. “Each of the committees will meet with staff and evaluate their progress. If they’re not on track, (Hugill) will put together a game plan to get them on track in the next eight or nine weeks. My feeling is they are doing well. I don’t expect many bad things to happen.

“The idea is to make sure everyone is on the same page and to make sure the team captains understand how the build dates will work and how the crews go together,” Cundy added.

Based on information she’s been getting from Caillier, Cundy doesn’t expect to hear of any teams being behind task. Even if they were, she noted the build dates would not be pushed back.

“We would just put together a game plan to get them caught up (by the build dates),” Cundy said.

Likewise, Caillier isn’t expecting any teams to face an urgent Plan B.

“I think the folks will look at it and say we kind of knew about this, but it’s good to check with you,” he said. “Most of the questions will get answered next week. I don’t think we’re totally pre- pared, but we’re nowhere near a crisis.

“We would like to have 75 percent of our volunteers signed up by next Tuesday, but that’s not going to happen,” he added. “At most places, the majority of volunteers showed up the day of the build. I think we’re going to be fine.”

Caillier said each team or committee will have 30 to 45 minutes to meet with Hugill and will have two or three questions to go over, mainly dealing with where that team is at. The time will also allow for the team leaders to ask any questions they might have, with Hugill able to answer based on his experience with other similar projects.

The day, open to the public, begins at 10 a.m. at KRP with a building site review. Two more meetings will take place at the Big Toy site, including one focused on long-term care, before a lunch break.

Meetings after lunch at the Keizer Community Center will take up most of the afternoon, as Hugill will meet with the leaders of each team, ending with the design and special features team at 5:30 p.m.

Following dinner, Hugill will meet with construction captains at 6:30 p.m. before a summary meeting at 7 with CBTF members, team leaders and construction captains.

Caillier stressed the importance of the Organization Day.

“I don’t think you can have a day any bigger for the project, other than the build day itself,” he said. “This day allows the sharing of information, exchanging ideas, confirming things, seeing where we need to do something. There’s no bigger day.”

Everything you wanted to know about the Big Toy

The site in the orchards at Keizer Rapids Park where the Big Toy playground structure will be going was recently cleared with nearly 200 trees total being taken out. (Submitted)
The site in the orchards at Keizer Rapids Park where the Big Toy playground structure will be going was recently cleared with nearly 200 trees total being taken out. (Submitted)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

In case you haven’t heard, a big playground is coming to Keizer soon.

If things go according to plan, the Big Toy will be built in June.

The project has had some issues, such as a nine-month delay and a controversy over the location that lasted most of 2014.

The Keizertimes has covered every step of the project. To check on our past coverage, visit www.keizertimes.com and search for Big Toy. We have put together a set of answers to questions we’ve frequently heard in regards to the Big Toy.

Where is the Big Toy being built?

The playground is being built at Keizer Rapids Park. More specifically, the Big Toy is being built in the orchards area off of Chemawa Road, not far from the dog park.

That was not the original location. The original site was between the boat ramp and the amphitheater. For months that was the assumed location, but in January 2014 then-mayor Lore Christopher opined a move was necessary. By the end of the year, following an in-depth Urban Growth Boundary process, the orchards became part of city property and the site was selected. Nearly 200 trees were recently cleared.

When is it being built?

The project is scheduled to be built in a five-day period, from June 10 to 14.

How much will this cost?

The project budget is about $319,000. Until recently, the budget was $105,000 more as a poured-in rubber surface was going to be used. Earlier this year, the decision was made to go with engineered wood fibers, hence the cut in the budget. However, Keizer officials will be applying for grants to pay for the more expensive surface. If that funding happens, the wood fibers will be moved to other parks in Keizer.

How much of that money has been raised?

For a number of months, the figure hovered around the 50 percent mark. With the budget cut, the number jumped to 70 percent. Even without that, fundraising efforts have been picking up in recent weeks. The largest contributor in the money raised so far is still the city, as $100,000 in System Development Charges (SDC) helped to kick-start things.

What if the money isn’t raised?

The project will still go on. Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, has emphasized the city is committed to making sure the Big Toy gets built. If needed, the city will put in more SDC funds to cover any shortcoming.

Janet Carlson, the Marion County commissioner who is co-chairing the Big Toy’s fundraising committee, has said fundraising won’t end in June. She feels once people see the project done, they will be more willing to contribute financially.

How did the design come about, and is it finalized?

A designer from New York-based consultant Leathers and Associates came to Keizer in November 2013 for Design Day. She suggested using the site between the amphitheater and the boat ramp, then led efforts to get design feedback from 3,000 elementary aged students in Keizer. Design ideas from youth were collected and turned into the design shown to community members in a packed meeting at the Keizer Civic Center.

For the most part, the design has been finalized. One recent change has been the addition of a volcano slide in light of Salem-Keizer Volcanoes owner Jerry Walker pledging funds to pay for the feature.

A look at the latest rendering of the Big Toy playground structure, incorporating the recent addition of a volcano slide. (Submitted)
A look at the latest rendering of the Big Toy playground structure, incorporating the recent addition of a volcano slide. (Submitted)

Wasn’t this project delayed?

Technically speaking, it was delayed twice. While a playground was part of the master planning process for KRP in 2008, a specific project didn’t get going until Will Stitt brought up the idea at a Parks Board meeting in late 2012. The initial idea was to do the playground the following year, but it got pushed back to 2014 to allow for more time, especially in terms of fundraising and design.

Funding issues and the ongoing debate over location, however, pushed the build date from September 2014 to this June.

What makes this a community build project?

Community members will be doing the actual building over the five-day span in June. Think of an old-fashioned barn raising, swapping out the barn for a large playground. In addition, volunteers have been putting in many hours at meetings to work on details for the project.

It’s important to note that while volunteers will be doing the labor, trained people will be overseeing the construction. More details about how the build days will work should be known after an organizational day on April 7.

What if I want to get involved in any way?

No help is being turned away. Plenty of time slots for the build days are still available; those interested can check out the project’s website at www.keizerbigtoy.org and fill out a form to volunteer. The website has plenty of information about the project, including how to provide financial support.

How long has this been planned?

Since November 2012. A Community Build Task Force was formed shortly after and has been meeting monthly.

Will this for sure be done?

Project leaders have expressed complete confidence it will be done and bristle at the notion it might be delayed again or might not happen at all. As mentioned above, city leaders have pledged to make sure it will be done.