By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

As city officials and volunteers plan for an event to mark the passage of a total solar eclipse over Keizer in August, an emphasis has been placed on putting the city’s best foot forward.

Plans included leveling and re-seeding a 7.5-acre field in the southwest corner of Keizer Rapids Park to make it welcoming for visitors who pay to camp there in the days preceding the solar event.

That won’t be happening.

Keizer Parks Supervisor Robert Johnson told members of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board that a combination of permitting and aftercare maintenance requirements were halting the plan.

“We’re required to have a (Department of Environmental Quality) permit when disturbing more than an acre of soil near the river. The permitting process would cost $1,800 we don’t have, and take about five weeks,” Johnson said.

The five-week wait would mean a start date past the prime time for seeding, Johnson added.

“The other side of it is that if you develop that land, it’s going to create an expectation. Right now, we mow it once or twice a year to keep fire risk down, but we would have to be out there mowing every week. We don’t have the equipment, we don’t have the manpower,” Johnson continued.

Clint Holland, a member of the parks advisory board and a major force behind park amenities like the amphitheater, said he was planning to wrangle a group of volunteers to supply the re-seeding work with the hope of installing irrigation at a future date.

Johnson suggested that adding irrigation would only further complicate the issue. There are only two full-time parks employees and 3-4 additional seasonal employees hired for the busy season, March to October.

When Keizer City Councilor Bruce Anderson, who was acting liaison for the Keizer City Council at the meeting, asked whether the permit process could go ahead if the $1,800 “magically appeared,” Johnson reasserted his assessment of the plan.

“We are in no condition to take care of 7.5 acres of additional irrigated turf,” Johnson said.

Parks board member Matt Lawyer said the shortage of funding for the permit and maintenance was another reason the city needs a stable funding mechanism for parks. In addition to the KRP field, a shortage of funds is keeping the city from maintaining its existing parks.

“I would be a hard ‘no’ vote (on moving forward with the permit) given the issues already needing to be addressed,” Lawyer said.

The parks board is currently collecting data from a survey asking residents whether they would support a fee creating a dedicated fund for parks maintenance and improvements. Keizer residents have received the survey with their water bills during the past two billing cycles, but it is also available at www.keizer.org, click on the scrolling banner at the top of the home page.