By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

A group of about 60 Keizer students rose to a challenge that would cause many adults to cower Saturday, Oct. 27.

The group, representing, McNary High School and Claggett Creek and Whiteaker middle schools, removed about 50 yards of wood chips from a play structure, repainted a picnic shelter and generally cleaned up Country Glen Park in north Keizer.

“I love how we bring the community together in our schools and get a bunch of work done to make parks better and more presentable,” said McNary’s Miranda Coleman.

Coleman and Whiteaker students Kyler Carmichael and Tristyn Campbell were making repeat appearances at community service efforts organized through the schools.

“We have a lot of garbage laying around and it’s good to get out and pick it up,” said Kyler.

“I just like doing it and it’s a good workout,” added Tristyn.

Some of the chips removed from the play structure were spread around the trees in the park for weed control, the rest were hauled away. City staff planned to replace the old wood chips with relatively new ones taken out of the Keizer Rapids Big Toy last year.

Robert Johnson, Keizer’s parks supervisor, was grateful for the assistance, but he had larger goals in mind as well.

“This is a park where we’ve had some graffiti and vandalism and, if we get these kids involved in the community, then when they see someone doing something wrong they can speak up and talk about how they helped make it a better place,” Johnson said. “There’s about 60 kids here right now and that’s a lot of ownership happening.”

Aside from that, the students allowed Johnson to direct parks employees’ efforts elsewhere.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done in parks and help like this is crucial. For my guys to come in here, three or four of them, it would take a week just to remove the wood chips. We are going to, I hope, have it done in half a day. The kids will repaint the entire shelter in a few hours and that would take one of our employees a day or more.”

Matt Lawyer, a member of the Keizer Parks Advisory Board, was helping lead the volunteer effort alongside Johnson. The parks board was a driving force behind getting a parks services fee instituted to bolster maintenance and improvement efforts, but there is a long backlog of parks-related work to chip away at. It means volunteers are still needed to make the most of available resources.

“This project, specifically, speaks to the pride, spirit and volunteerism. We got the parks fee put in place, but these are the type of volunteer activities that we want to encourage people to do. Especially students at McNary,Whiteaker and Claggett Creek,” Lawyer said. “I think it’s still a very important part of why Keizer is awesome and the fee is a mechanism to continue doing these sorts of projects because now the parks department can pay to sponsor them.”

While students represented all corners of the three schools, McNary’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and Latino Club made concerted efforts to bring out their groups’ members.