With more than 30,000 online votes cast last year to help fund a new playground at Redmond’s Baker Park in a Portland Trail Blazers contest, city officials knew they had to do something special.
And the $600,000 project stands out, with places for kids to play designed to take them (and their parents) back in time. A replica Sixth Street arch welcomes visitors to the park. Inside, children can play in a towering structure designed to look like the historic New Redmond Hotel, as well as buildings with homages to the old Cent-Wise sign and the Lynch & Roberts store. There’s even a replica of a train that once roared through town.
“We just sort of started brainstorming,” said Annie McVay, parks and facilities division manager for the city. “Baker Park is one of the first neighborhood parks in the city. We kind of wanted to honor the history of Redmond.”
The original playground, built in 1976, featured slides considered too tall and equipment that could get too hot for some children. That was likely an upgrade over the former attraction at the site on SW Obsidian Avenue, between SW 16th and 17th streets — a hole in the ground known by neighbors as “the pit,” according to Facebook comments.
Redmond was one of three cities to take part in a spring 2018 contest put on by the National Basketball Association team and Moda Health, winning the back-and-forth fan vote over Dallas, Oregon, by fewer than 1,000 votes. The process to complete the park has taken time, but the playground is expected to open by mid-November, with an official ribbon cutting likely in the spring.
“Everybody’s been waiting for a while,” McVay said. “But we wanted to take our time and get some more funding and make it a better park.”
The victory drew attention to the park, but contributed only $20,000, roughly $10 for each assist the Trail Blazers had during the 2017-18 season (an amount the team doubled in the following season’s contest). With larger scale plans for the park, which also includes a new irrigation system, Americans with Disabilities Act compatible parking and sidewalks and replacing the picnic pavilion, Redmond needed hundreds of thousands more.
“A big portion of the budget is things you don’t really think about,” McVay said.
A big chunk of that came in a $300,000 grant from Oregon State Parks and Recreation. McVay said the city covered the remaining $280,000.
“It made a huge difference, especially with the cost of getting up to compliance with the sidewalks,” McVay said of the grant.
About $375,000 of the project’s cost was for the playground. McVay said the state grant also allowed the city to add more equipment, letting it serve more ages and abilities. Along with the typical slides and swings, it has musical instruments like bongo drums and a xylophone.
Construction on the park started in August, and most of the playground equipment had been installed last week. Additional work that needed to be completed included the installation of swings and a merry-go-round, as well as gray rubber tile for the floor of the 4,500-square-foot playground area.
The previous pavilion was removed, with a concrete pad remaining. The new one is expected to be built in the coming weeks.
The park is now surrounded by temporary fencing. While most of that is expected to be removed by winter, new sod will not be installed until after it warms up. After that, a ribbon cutting featuring Trail Blazers representatives is expected.
“We’re going to wait until the park is more finished, but, yes, the Trail Blazers are looking forward to coming out for the ribbon cutting,” McVay said.
Particularly excited about the new park’s design is Brent Baker of Salem, the grandson of park namesake Lloyd Baker, a former Redmond School District board president and church and community leader, who died in 1969. Baker family members cast many votes in the online contest.
“It’s definitely long overdue for Redmond to have this new park,” Brent Baker said. “I love the throwback look, it’s what I remember from going to visit grandma and grandpa in Redmond.”
— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmond spokesman.com