In a nutshell: Sunset Park in west Keizer has the easiest, most direct river access of any park in the city. Amenities, however, are almost non-existent.
Time visited: 5:05 p.m. on a Monday
Size: 1.5 acres
Who was there: No one.
Where it is: Blink and you’ll miss it. It’s on the west side of Rivercrest Drive N. at the west end of Sunset Drive N. It’s bound on the north and south side by private property, to the east by Rivercrest and to the west by the Willamette River.
Mowing level: Good. Some shaded areas have limited grass, but the park is overall in good shape from a terrain perspective.
What’s there: Is this park for you? Depends on what you’re looking for.
If you want to open up the door and let the little ones run around on safe, bouncy jungle gyms, get back in the car and head a few blocks south to Wallace House Park.
It’s easier (mostly in a good way) to say what Sunset Park does not have rather than what it does: No play structures of any kind, no bathrooms (temporary or permanent), no water fountain, no lighting once you get past the gate, no barriers between the river and publicly-accessible areas, no parking lot.
Now that you know what Sunset Park is not, know what it is: For its small size and location in a relatively dense neighborhood, the setting is sublime.
Keizer Rapids Park may deliver a more immersive, get-away-from-it-all experience, but for a two-minute walk in the park you can’t beat Sunset Park for the combination of nature and ease of access.
The narrow gateway betrays a much more open expanse along the river. There’s several picnic tables and benches for a nice, long (or short) sit. With scant development on the river’s west side, looking out over the river can take you back to a simpler time, watching the current create a fast lane of sorts in the middle of the river while water seems to slow to a crawl on the riverbank.
But don’t be fooled: The current is faster than it looks, and the river gets deep here. We went swimming here during last year’s heat wave and drifted far enough downriver we were forced to climb out onto private property.
A rock beach provides direct access to the water.
Speaking of private property – this is important – none of the boat docks you might find on the river are open to the public; they’re all owned and maintained by the homeowner. Some boundaries are not well-marked.
In addition, we didn’t catch anything but it’s as good a place as any public space in the city limits to cast a reel.
Parking: Street parking only; vehicular access gate is always locked. Gate for pedestrian and bicycle.
Park history: The park has been around in one form or another for more than 70 years. It was originally reserved as a private park for property owners in the Rivercrest Acres subdivision. John and Anna Kaeesr deeded the park to Marion County for use as a public park. It was conveyed to the City of Keizer in 1983.
Miscellany: That aforementioned restriction on the original park deed was part of a lawsuit between a neighbor, who used the park to access the rear of his property, and the city of Keizer over who had rights to drive through the park. The suit was ultimately settled, granting the neighbor limited right to drive through the park.
Master Plan calls for: Installing a disability-friendly path, maintaining park’s natural feel.
Parks staff says: “I consider the state of this park as being mostly a natural area with minimal amenities. Most of the maintenance is accomplished by one of the neighbors. We do empty the garbage cans and pick up litter two to five times per week. As to what it needs, I would personally say that it is about like it should be for a natural area. Its strength lies in being on the water for fishing or just watching the wildlife and being in a fairly serene spot to just relax.”