Redmond park project focuses on accessibility, nature
City has more than $400,000 for improvements
When you're a kid, sometimes there's nothing better than going to the park.
Powell Butte resident Madie Vaughn, 8, came to Redmond's Sam Johnson Park on Monday with her grandpa and sisters.
Vaughn said the park is one of her favorites.
"There's a nice little trail to ride bikes, and there's a playground," Vaughn said.
Many of the locals use the park several times a week.
"I've been coming here since I was like 2 or 3," said 10-year-old Redmond resident Logan Buckley.
And many of the kids in the park are pretty excited for some changes.
"They're going to tear down this park, make a new one -- just better stuff, more fun for kids," Buckley said.
A preview of the park's future is already in place and crawling with kids--the MonkeyFace climbing wall. It's on loan from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
The city recently won more than $200,000 from the state agency to improve the park; add city and community contributions and at least a $400,000 makeover is on the way.
Redmond Community Development Director Heather Richards said the project was ranked as the No. 1 priority for the state's 'Local Government Grant.'
She said the improvement project is about much more than replacing worn and peeling playground equipment.
"(We're) making it 100 percent accessible for people of all abilities, and where it accommodates all ages groups and interests," Richards said.
She said the city, and its partner groups, the Kiwanis Club and Friends of Sam Johnson Park, will make the park easier to access for those with disabilities: taking out the bark chips, adding ramps and fixing decaying paths.
Another piece of the project is designing a theme going back to nature. The new park will mimic the Dry Canyon and nearby Smith Rock.
"(There will be) a long rock wall, probably about 50 to 100 feet in length, 10 to 15 feet high and the whole structure will be climbable," Richards said.
There will also be slides made to look like water outfalls from the canyon, among other features that are often found on the High Desert.
The city doesn't currently have any parks with specific play equipment for toddlers.
Richards said the improved Sam Johnson Park will have features for young kids -- lava tubes to crawl through and rock chucks obstacles to climb on.
"Oh my gosh, it's going to be awesome!" Vaughn said when she learned about some of the new play equipment coming to the park.
The new playground will be six times bigger than the one in place -- and an opportunity to learn more about the High Desert.
"(There will be diagrams and pictures) talking about the geology, so the different layers of rock you find in the canyon, the types of animals that live in the canyon, fossils, scat," Richards said.
Construction starts this winter and and city officials hope the new park will open in the spring.
The city hopes to raise about $100,000 this summer to add to the project budget.
For more information and how to donate, visit http://www.samjohnsonpark.com.
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