Big Toy will change future of Keizer

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By JANET CARLSON
LORE CHRISTOPHER

The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park is about building our community and improving our children’s health. As a community, we are concerned about childhood obesity that has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents. The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park will make possible healthy, active outdoor play for Keizer’s and Marion County’s children. This is the right project at the right time to improve the future of our children and families.

Keizer Rapids Parks began with the vision of connecting Keizer and the broader region with the Willamette River. Seventeen federal, state and local partners joined together, creating a 150-acre expanse of natural beauty for residents to enjoy.  Opening in 2006, the park features hiking trails, bike paths, a disc golf area, boat ramp, Keizer Rotary Amphitheater, and dog park. At Keizer Rapids Park you can already experience free concerts throughout the summer, RIVERfair,  and Shakespeare in the Park. And now, starting June 14, Keizer Rapids Park will proudly launch a destination play area reflecting our region’s unique history and culture.

More than 3,400 children from every Keizer elementary school engaged in focus groups where they drew pictures of what they wanted in a Big Toy play area. Landscape architects then took those drawings and spent hours compiling the children’s ideas, resulting in a playground design that features Keizer’s and Oregon’s history. Big Toy components include the Oregon Wallace House log cabin, Smith Rock climbing wall, an eastern Oregon dinosaur dig, Salem-Keizer Volcanoes slide, paddle boat, and Willamette Valley fire trucks with misters. Adaptive play equipment expands the Big Toy’s appeal to youth of all abilities and all ages.

The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park has strong support from area Rotary clubs, Chambers of Commerce, fire departments, Salem-Keizer Transit, neighborhood associations, and area businesses. We are grateful for financial support from the City of Keizer, Keizer Rotary Club, Marion County, Oregon Community Foundation, Keizer Parks Foundation, and many, many organizations and individuals who adopted components, bought a fence picket, or simply made a donation.

What we need now is manpower. On June 10 to14, more than 700 volunteers will build this 15,000 square foot playground. We expect to complete the build in just five days. No skills needed. We have skilled construction captains who will train and oversee each four-hour shift. In addition to construction help, we need volunteers for children’s activities, art, and child care.  We need help feeding 200 volunteers three meals each day. There is something for everyone to do.

Then join us at the soft opening in the late afternoon of June 14 or at a free concert honoring our volunteers at the Keizer Rotary Amphitheater on June 27.  You, your friends, your children, and your grandchildren can enjoy the new Big Toy playground, along with other park amenities, all through the summer. For more information, or to sign up for the community build, visit www.keizerbigtoy.org.

(Janet Carlson is a Marion County Commissioner; Lore Christopher is a former mayor of Keizer. Carlson can be reached at jcarlson@co.marion.or.us and Christopher at chrisfam1@msn.com.)

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