Politics of a toy

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One person’s idea can excite many others and grow into a full-fledged civic project.

After Keizer resident William Stitt laid out his idea for a big toy playground at Keizer Rapids Park, the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board quickly adopted the idea in early 2013. Stitt cited other big toy playgrounds in the region and thought it would  be a good fit for the park.

The project, a community build, will be led by the city with the help of the Keizer Parks Foundation and dozens, if not hundreds, of volunteers.What is supposed to be a large, adventurous playground for Keizer kids is in danger of being mired in competing visions and politics.

The final site for the playround within in the park has yet to be settled. Mayor Lore Christopher threw a wrench in the planning in January when she said she favored a site close to Chemawa Road. The task force organizing the community build and the paid consultant all favored a site further in the park between the amphitheatre and the boat ramp parking area.

There is yet to be a final vote on the location due to some machinations regarding the urban growth boundary (UGB) that must be concluded. The 28-acre expansion of the UGB at the park needs the acquiesance of the Salem, Marion County and Polk County. We still think that’s a lot of heavy lifting to accomplish a goal that should have been finalized already.

The Keizer Rotary Foundation voted to donate $30,000 to the playground project as long it was sited in the orginal location. The money will not be forthcoming if the playground is sited near Chemawa Road.

This week, the Keizer Fire Distrcit Board of Directors quashed a request from the mayor to donate $7,000 for a Keizer Fire-branded fire truck toy in the playground. There was an attempt to play Keizer Fire against Marion County Fire District #1 when both were approached to pledge money for rival fire truck toys.

With the emnity between the two districts lingering from the Clear Lake annexation issue, the solictation to both becomes fraught with too much politics.

The community build playground will be a wonderful asset to the city and Keizer Rapids Park. The project will end up costing about $750,000 when all is said and done—to be fair that includes in-kind donations, volunteer labor, donated materials and a state grant. The grant, offered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, is reputed to be a very competitive grant and there is no guarantee that Keizer’s playground project will receive the Local Government Grant from the state.

It is late March and there is no final playground design to be presented. The final design will depend on whether the playground is sited at its original location or closer to Chemawa Road.

We have previously called for the city council and the task force to move forward and finalize plans for the playground near the boat ramp parking area. There are too many parts that need to fall into place to build it near Chemawa—the urban growth boundary needs to be expanded and more than 60 trees removed. The UGB expansion needs the approval of Salem, Marion County and Polk County.

Mark Caillier, the project coordinator, has said plans need to be ready by July 1 to meet the mid-September construction schedule. We ask the task force to present a final design, the city council to formalize the site.

So far it’s been talk and more talk. The excited children and families of Keizer would like to see something concrete, a design, a location. They are ready to pitch in. Let’s get all the politics out of the project—our kids don’t care about that stuff.   —LAZ

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