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2014 Parks Bond pays for replacement play area by Metropolitan Learning Center in northwest Portland

PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Kids and adults cut the ribbon at Couch Park on Saturday, May 4 in northwest Portland. The 2014 Parks Replacement Bond's poster child has been completed — literally.

Officials gathered at Couch Park, 551 N.W. 19th Ave., said the promised replacement playground was featured heavily in posters and other pitches made to Portland voters. On a balmy Saturday, May 4, kids and adults formally cut the ribbon on a brand-new inclusive playspace, which is located across the street from the off-beat Metropolitian Learning Center.

"Last summer, this was all bark chips, a small metal structure and five rocks. Seriously, five rocks," said Nina Peters, a sixth-grader at the alternative school. "Now it's a playground!"

Founded as a park in 1914, MLC students helped design a wooden play structure and plaza on site in 1975. Nearly 40 years later, the structure was worn out and didn't comply with modern disabilities standards, so workers fenced it off and then demolished it.

The $2.1-million rebuild was paid primarily with funds from the $68 million parks bond. Parents affiliated with Friends of Couch Playground raised $350,000, while Metro regional government chipped in another $150,000. Harper's Playground was also a key partner in raising the $500,000.

PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Kids frolic on a new group swingset at Couch Park on Saturday, May 4 in Portland. New features include a battering-ram style group swing, a ramped accessible-to-all fort and a geodesic dome, boulder scramble, slide, as well as a public seating area and Portland Loo.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who was leading the Parks Bureau when the project started in 2014, said recalling the tear-down decision as "difficult" would be a bit of an understatement.

"That's like saying I remember childbirth, but with pressure," she joked. "It was probably the second-most uncomfortable meeting that I've been involved in since I've been on the City Council."

Also in attendance were the current Parks commissioner, Nick Fish, as well as recently hired Parks Director Adena Long and Jon Blasher, director of Metro's Parks & Nature Department. Blasher noted that Metro is planning to renew its current parks and nature bond in a way that "would not increase taxes."

"I'm a product of neighborhood playgrounds and of unstructured play," said Blasher, who lives in the Parkrose neighborhood. "It's really great to be here on a day like this, where the kids are not being quiet and listening to the presentation, they're out using this amazing resource." PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Jon Blasher is director of Metro's Parks & Nature Department.

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