By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Keizer Rapids Park is on the path to getting it’s first picnic shelter thanks to the narrow approval of a matching grant request by the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Tuesday, April 11.

The grant for $8,300 – all of the remaining funds in the matching grant budget for the fiscal year – will help cover the cost of a 16-foot by 24-foot covered picnic shelter near the sand volleyball courts on the northwest side of the park. The total cost of the project is estimated at $26,300.

Hans Schneider, the driving force behind the upgrade to the sand volleyball courts a few years ago, was the grant applicant. He and his wife are committing $10,000 to the project.

Schneider also runs a youth volleyball program on the courts during the summer.

“When we ran our sand volleyball program last summer, we needed a place for the kids to place their things or cool down or if we get some rain,” Schneider said.

While the parks board approved the grant request, it was not without dissent.

“The current state of Keizer parks is not great, I would be more inclined to support current projects than new ones because of the status quo budget,” said Matt Lawyer, a member of the parks board.

Lawyer cited the results of the recent parks survey as one reason for his eventual “no” vote. The survey results showed residents heavily favored maintaining and upgrading existing facilities and services over building new ones.

Even as Lawyer took a stand against approving the grant, he apologized to Schneider for doing so.

“We know we can trust you, but at some point the city would have to be responsible for the maintenance of the picnic structure,” said Donna Bradley, parks board member. “I think it’s important that we look at that even though you are an exemplary volunteer.”

Keizer Parks Supervisor Robert Johnson did not voice an opinion on the project, but said that a concrete and steel structure, like the one proposed, is one of the easiest amenities to maintain.

“It basically lasts forever and it’s hard to vandalize. Even if Hans did go away, we wouldn’t be putting in hundreds of additional hours,” Johnson said.

Schneider said he and his family would pledge to take care of the structure for however long the city requested the service.

The board also discussed offsetting some of the money requested in the grant with system development charges, but Schneider already hoped to pursue those funds separately. System development charges are levied against new residential construction to pay for improvements in parks, but can only pay for 13.6 percent of any new project.

The two most vocal supporters of the project were board members Dylan Juran and Clint Holland.

“Our budget and the city says that if we don’t spend this (matching grant) money we lose it. And we have a project that Hans is saying he will give us almost three times the value of the matching funds. It’s not spending it to spend it, it’s getting a return on investment,” Juran said.

Holland called to mind recent discussions about improving a large field at Keizer Rapids park this summer. Despite having donated materials and labor lined up, the board nixed the project because it would have resulted in substantial time and resources to maintain once it was complete.

“When we turn things down when someone who is helping out, I can’t even comprehend it. If we don’t have the staff, go get some volunteers to do it,” Holland said. “I would hate to see him not come back to here. Take the $8,300 total out of the grant fund for this because we are going to get a lot in return,” Holland said.

Lawyer, Bradley and Cat Gaynor voted against the grant approval.

Schneider hopes to have the pad for the shelter poured in early June and the installation completed by the end of June.