By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
The number of possible sites for The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park has grown again.
The latest was presented by Keizer City Councilor Jim Taylor to a small group last Wednesday, April 9.
It was mentioned last week at the council meeting there were six possible sites for the community build play structure, which will be built Sept. 17 to 21. The Site 1 location north of the boat ramp and southeast of the amphitheater – also referred to as Area B, or the tree site – has been the top choice most of the time, but in January Mayor Lore Christopher championed the idea of a site in the orchards along Chemawa Road, at the front of the park along Walsh Way.
The site Taylor proposed last week would still be in the orchards, but more into the park. Taylor showed the new site to Christopher, Clint Holland, Brandon Smith, Richard Walsh and David Louden.
“We were just looking around, trying to find something everyone likes,” Taylor said. “I don’t think we ever will. This is right across from the Charge house. Parking is across from the dog park. There will be a new parking lot, but not a new road. It’s in a corner. It’s not going to mess up the rest of the orchard. It would be right in the middle of the park, so it can be accessed from everywhere.
“It’s bigger, so you can make (the toy) as big as you want,” he added. “You’re not constricted by size, plus you can put parking in there. It’s closer to everything in there now. It’s real pretty. You’re going to be able to see it pretty good. You’re going to come into the park and will see it right off.”
Taylor emphasized he came up with the idea for the site.
“I was just trying to come up with an alternative,” he said. “If we have just the tree spot, then we’re not giving people an option. Now at least you have a choice. I just felt there weren’t many people liking the Chemawa Road site. I walked around and looked and decided this is a next best option. We just want to give people options. If it was up to me, I would put it there.”
Taylor anticipates having a community forum to discuss locations.
“What we want to do, we will have a big community forum and everyone will decide what they like,” Taylor said. “I don’t know when that will be, probably late May. We won’t put it where people don’t want it. I think we’ll know in this big community meeting. We’ll know what the majority wants and that’s where it will go.”
Fellow councilor Marlene Quinn, chair of the Community Build Task Force, agreed there will likely be a May community forum, but didn’t have an exact date yet.
“There’s no timeline yet, but stay tuned for that,” Quinn said. “I’ll have a timeline for you shortly, I promise. I don’t want it to look like we’re doing this and we told Jim to do this, because that’s not the case. This is a community project. The community needs to weigh in on every aspect of this project. The location, master plan, everything.”
Quinn emphasized Taylor came up with the idea for the site himself.
“It’s not the task force’s suggestion,” Quinn said. “It has not been approved by anybody. Have some people looked at it? Yes. Have I? No, because I think right now the process needs to be vetted in the community via the master plan.”
Holland said the site is being looked at as a compromise.
“I’m not in favor of a compromise,” Holland said. “I’m in favor of putting the toy in the best place. A lot of people are.”
Holland noted pros and cons as compared to the site along Chemawa Road.
“You lose the visibility, but you still have problems with pollens,” Holland said. “It’s more in the middle of the orchards, so there’s maybe even more dust. It’s more into that park, so water is a little closer. You may be able to bring in electricity up from the amphitheater.
“My philosophy is forget the politics,” he added. “Where is the best place to build the toy? In my mind, it is still in Area B. I truly believe that. My mind is still open and I will look at this other site. But at this moment I haven’t changed my mind.”
Walsh noted there is plenty of land around the orchards to consider for placement of the Big Toy.
“The entire 28 acres is being looked at for the new toy,” Walsh said. “We are considering what possibilities might be practical in those 28 acres.”
Mark Caillier, general coordinator for the project, worries ongoing battle over sites is creating problems.
“At some point we have to fish or cut bait,” Caillier said. “We’re getting there sooner rather than later. Having a site and then not having a site, like we have here, detracts from the momentum of the project. As coordinator, that is what concerns me. I think that is a distraction in this project. A good plan executed with high levels of energy and determination is better than a perfect plan that is not timely.”