Philomath nature park

City Manager Chris Workman hopes to see the new nature play and discovery park on 11th Street finished by the end of this summer.

Philomath's newest city park needs a name.

This summer, a $255,000 nature play and discovery park will be constructed on 11th Street to bring in a new recreational option for local parents and their children.

During the Philomath Park Advisory Board's monthly meeting last Tuesday, members decided they wanted to hear input from the community on ideas for a name, perhaps even an effort involving local schools.

During the grant-writing process, Workman had come up with T.J. Connor Discovery Park as a proposed name. Connor was a missionary for the United Brethren Church who came overland from Indiana to Oregon in 1853. He led the effort to not only establish his church in the region, but also Philomath College, which was chartered in 1865.

 "When I was looking through it, a name that would work for the grant purposes gleaning on Philomath's history gives you a little bit of bonus points, I thought, so I looked for an historic character that was maybe under-recognized that we could put on it," Workman explained. "So that's where the T.J. Connor Discovery Park came from. But that was for the grant purpose."

In other words, the name is not tied to the grant. Park Advisory Board chair Dale Collins felt it would be a good idea to give residents in the neighborhood a say in its name. The discussion then led the board in the direction of opening up the issue to the entire community.

"My only 2 cents really and it's just my opinion is I would hate for it to be something like 11th Street Park," Workman said. "Maybe we can be a little more creative."

Collins then thought about approaching the school district about students coming up with possibilities for the park's name.

Along with Collins, other members at the meeting were Lindy Young, Carol Leach, Spencer Irwin and Elizabeth Elliott.

The natural playscapes approach to playgrounds has grown in popularity in recent years. The play areas incorporate natural features into a fun zone for children, such as hills, trees, logs and sand. Some even include movable pieces for the children to play with and build whatever their imaginations can conjure up.

As for the park's timeline, Workman said the property has been surveyed and is now in the hands of designer Anita Van Asperdt of LandCurrent, the landscape architect that had come up with the conceptual plan. Beyond the information from the survey, Philomath Public Works has also communicated with the designer about details on access.

Workman said LandCurrent planned to do a site visit in part to take a look at several boulders that were acquired by the city. The boulders originated from a construction site in Salem and were hauled last summer to Philomath with about 20 dump truck loads.

"Part of the design had like a boulder climb, so it's kind of a big berm built up of boulders on one side and grass on the other side and you put the trail on top and it's kinda fun to climb up to and walk around," Workman described.

Workman told the board that Van Asperdt hopes to have a design submitted by the end of the month.

The park advisory board would go through the design at its March 6 meeting and provide feedback to LandCurrent. The city would soon follow with release of the park's design to the public to collect comments on what is liked or disliked about it and then later have a meeting for final approval.

"Hopefully by the first part of April, it'll actually be ready to go out for bid and we'll give it a month and then in May, we'll start looking at accepting a contract and moving forward," Workman said.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department awarded Philomath a $201,756 grant to build the park, which would be located on 11th north of Pioneer Street. Requirements dictate that the project must be paid for by the end of October.

"My goal is to have the park done by end of August," Workman said. "That way if we fudge into September, it still gives us time to get invoices and get it paid out."

The grant program’s guidelines provide for at least a 20-percent match for cities with fewer than 5,000 residents.

Most of the match, Workman said, will be through donated materials and volunteer time.

"We can count volunteer time, even for things like spreading bark dust and planting flowers and bushes and all that and so, at the end of the project, there will be a lot of hands-on volunteer time that we can put onto it," he said. "It gets paid the same as a volunteer that's doing the engineering or a volunteer doing anything else."

Also at the meeting, the board briefly discussed Music in the Park, a summer concert series that will return for a third year. The series will kick off May 24 with the Philomath High School jazz band. Arrangements are still being made to bring in other bands for the June 21, July 19 and Aug. 26 dates. Collins is hoping to bring in a country-western band this summer.

The two-hour concerts are offered free of charge and the Philomath Lions Club will return to provide concessions.

Collins brought up the idea of placing banners in a couple of spots on Main Street at both 13th and 19th. Workman said the Oregon Department of Transportation would need to give its approval.

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