By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Various additions have been talked about for Keizer Rapids Park in recent years, with the Big Toy playground being the latest and most visible example.
So where should the different pieces be put?
That’s the purpose of an upcoming series of public meetings.
During Tuesday’s Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting, board members approved a draft timeline for amending the Keizer Parks Master Plan to incorporate property currently outside the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) at KRP. The vote was 5-1, with Clint Holland opposed.
The intent of the meetings is to solicit input from as many people as possible, including neighborhood associations, sports organizations and the general public. The process started with Tuesday’s Parks Board meeting and was expected to continue with Thursday’s Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association meeting.
The Parks Board will hold a public hearing on the topic during their next meeting on June 10. Two nights later, the Parks Board will host a public forum for the West Keizer Neighborhood Association. Youth and activity groups would then be invited to a hearing at the July 8 Parks Board meeting. On Aug. 12, Parks Board members will meet to develop a priority list for amenities based on the feedback gathered.
On Sept. 20, a design charette will be held to create concept designs. Those designs will be reviewed at the Oct. 14 Parks Board meeting, at which point a recommendation will be sent to the Keizer City Council. Councilors will hold a public hearing and make a decision on Nov. 3.
“Getting as much public input is what it’s all about,” Parks Board chair Brandon Smith said.
Amending the master plan for parks came up earlier this year as a result of a suggestion by Mayor Lore Christopher to look at the 28 acres within city limits – but outside the UGB – at KRP for possible placement of the Big Toy community build project.
Holland explained his vote against the schedule.
“What this is saying is here’s where we’re going to build the toy,” Holland said. “It is hidden in here. A lot of this has to do with the toy. We’re going to postpone the toy. We have a master plan in place to build the toy. We have the most beautiful location (Area B) and parking. But forget all that: the biggest reason I’m opposed is we promised to build in September. This (schedule) is about the Big Toy. I’m not opposed to the schedule itself, it’s just deceiving what is happening.”
Discussion of the Big Toy timing was indeed intertwined with the schedule discussion. Parks Board members later voted 5-1 to move the build date from Sept. 17 to 21 back to June 10 to 14, 2015. That echoed a vote made last week during the Community Build Task Force meeting (see related story, pg. 1). Holland again cast the dissenting vote.
“Not everyone is terribly excited about the delay,” Smith said. “A lot of us have been working on the process a long time and were looking forward to it being built in September. But I want to make sure everyone is heard. I was originally against (the delay). Things have changed since then. Now I believe it is the right path to take. We need to take a long view picture of the park. If we don’t do it right the first time, we can’t ever fix it down the road.”
Mark Caillier, general coordinator for the Big Toy project, echoed Smith in terms of his changing view on a delay.
“My first response – and my second, third and fourth response – was no, no, no and hell no,” Caillier said. “Then I started looking at things. I got comments from other team leaders. Then the Planning Commission did their thing about not being able to touch trees (until master planning is done). Here’s what really convinced me: we’d have parking here for the dog park, here for the boat ramp, here for the Big Toy. We will have 60 percent of our land as parking lots.”
Parks Board member Richard Walsh, co-chair of the fundraising committee for the Big Toy project, said he also had what he termed a “coming to Jesus” meeting regarding his decision to support the project delay.
“I didn’t want to lose project momentum or team leaders,” Walsh said. “That was huge. But most people had a sigh of relief when (the delay) was mentioned. I started out with the idea of you’ve got to be kidding me. Then I came to see the delay would be beneficial. We have a $150,000 grant application out. It will be maybe mid-July when we learn about that. Imagine everyone is lined up, then we don’t get the grant. If that happens, this thing is not being built in September anyway.”