By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
William Stitt was thinking of his children when he first brought up the idea of a regional play structure in Keizer.
Stitt was also thinking of his children when he recently stepped down from the Community Build Task Force that is overseeing The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park project.
Stitt, who works at Oregon Catholic Press in Portland, has been finding night meetings tough to do since his wife works at Sylvan Learning Center during the evenings. With two young sons at home, Stitt made a decision to focus on them in the evenings, not meetings.
“It’s ironic that the same reason that I approached the city (my boys) is now keeping me from attending the meetings,” Stitt said. “I guess what it comes down to is I have to do what is right for my boys and my family. I want to be there for them. If I have to bow out, it’s for the right reason. I love my boys. This is a chance to spend more time for them.”
The play structure will be built Sept. 17 to 21. Stitt, who hopes to help with the construction, noted eldest son Liam turns six on Sept. 25. Younger son Charlie is 3.
“When my wife was pregnant with Liam, I started thinking of playgrounds,” Stitt said. “The first one I saw was in Gladstone, in the Portland area. I remember thinking it was really cool. I knew what a good big play structure would look like. I’d been looking for one for my son for a while.”
Stitt then visited a Leathers and Associates-designed play structure in Oak Harbor, Wash. with a friend.
“I knew this was exactly what we would need,” Stitt said. “I was looking at Keizer Rapids Park and knew this would be the perfect spot.”
With several photos in hand, Stitt brought the idea up at a Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting in December 2012. Board members immediately latched onto the idea, especially then-chair Richard Walsh, a key figure behind the formation of KRP while on the Keizer City Council.
“I have just a tiny, tiny part in this,” Stitt said. “I introduced the city council to the idea. Richard Walsh had the same idea, he just didn’t know how to start.”
Stitt was involved with the project from the start. He was on a committee with Ron and Kim Freeman to round up volunteers and took designer Jane Lewis Holman from Leathers to the airport after Design Day was completed in November.
A few months earlier Stitt played with Liam on another play structure in Washington, an experience that cemented his reason for getting involved.
“We got to play on it by ourselves,” Stitt recalled. “We went around it a few times. He saw it as a pirate ship. I was Captain Daddy. It’s amazing to see what these things can do to kids and their imaginations. The imagination of a 5-year-old can blow you away. Something like this gives their imagination fire.”
Stitt looks forward to children in Keizer having a chance at that.
“It will be great,” he said. “I don’t know if I can quantify that. I’m really, really looking forward to the chance. As I drive by a park, I love the sound of kids playing, the imagination and joy as they play on a playground. The chance to watch kids at play is an amazing thing. As adults we lose that. I don’t get to play and be silly. This will be a great opportunity for my kids and the kids in the surrounding area.”