North Plains gets ready to unveil new veterans park
For years, Blake Boyles resorted to giving people directions to North Plains by telling them it's the exit on Highway 26 near the tall McDonald's restaurant sign.
"Well, the McDonald's sign is 85 feet tall; this is 100 feet tall," said Boyles, public works director for North Plains, sitting on a bench in front of the flagpole at North Plains' new veterans memorial park.
After years of planning, the new memorial park located on the corner of Northwest Highland Court and 313th Avenue is nearly complete.
City officials say they're excited to honor veterans in the small city with the park, and they hope servicemembers and their families from across the region will come to appreciate it.
They have big plans for unveiling it to the community, which came together in an extraordinary way to support the project.
The city is holding a grand opening for the park at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, Veterans Day. Social distancing will be observed and masks are required at the event due to the coronavirus.
"It's really exciting because we're able to make a difference to honor our previous, our current, our future veterans," said Mayor Teri Lenahan. "Knowing that there are so many existing veterans in our community, and being able to be a place for people to come and have solace and reflection is really important."
The park will feature a 100-foot flagpole with a 50- by 30-foot flag as the centerpiece; commemorative plaques honoring veterans, branches of the military and POWs; as well as benches, the town's first electric vehicle charging stations, an American Legion flag disposal box, and a bike rack and repair station.
Features will be illuminated at night with LED lighting.
Instead of building a nearby stormwater retention pond as state regulations would have required, the vehicle parking area of the park was constructed using permeable concrete, allowing rain runoff to percolate through into the ground.
On Thursday, Oct. 29, city employees were working fast to construct the final pieces of the park. Many materials for the park were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but officials were committed to having the park completed by Veterans Day, said City Manager Andy Varner.
The park will also contain places for more than 1,500 memorial bricks honoring those who have served or are serving.
Lenahan said as soon as the city announced people could purchase bricks to be engraved at the park, the community's appreciation for service and its ties to the military was evident.
"So many people started to say, 'Hey, I want to buy a brick,' or, 'I wanted to donate some money for people to have bricks,'" Lenahan said. "The support in the community is just overwhelming."
Additionally, most of the work to design and construct to park was donated in a show of support from several local companies.
Tony Roos did the whole site design pro bono. He's a principal engineer with Kittelson & Associates, and he's a U.S. Army veteran who previously served as president of the Portland Post of the Society of American Military Engineers.
Boyles knew Roos from a previous project the two had worked on together. As plans to create the park were getting underway three years ago, Boyles reached out to the Society of American Military Engineers and asked Roos if the group would write a letter of support for a grant to fund the project.
"I thought, 'That's not good enough,'" Roos said. "We'll write the letter, but we also stood up our resources as professionals to help him advance this cause."
Roos then brought in several other companies with ties to his group, including engineering firm GRI, design firm Otak, and 3J Consulting, to bring the project to fruition for free.
The grand opening will include an F-15 Eagle flyover by the 142nd Wing, which is home to the Oregon Air National Guard's Redhawks, and a gun salute by the Martin J. Ryan VFW Post 2666 Color Guard and the North Plains Boy Scout Troop 275 Color Guard.
Additionally, 12 pieces of military equipment, including a tank, from previous eras will be on display by the Military Vehicles Collector Club of Oregon, Boyles said. Newer vehicles and a howitzer artillery piece will be on display from the Oregon Army National Guard 2-218 Field Artillery, which is based in Forest Grove. The 671st Engineer Company will also have displays during the event.
Officials including Mayor Teri Lenahan; Rep. Janeen Sollman, who represents North Plains in the Oregon House of Representatives; Washington County Commissioner Jerry Willey; and a local brigadier general will make remarks.
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