The proposed playground at White Oak Savanna would include a zipline, small amphitheater

SUBMITTED PHOTO - The approved concept plan for the new playground includes a zipline, small amphitheater, a mud play area and a giant covered slide. A proposed nature park at West Linn's White Oak Savanna Park took a significant step forward Aug. 16, as the planning commission voted unanimously to approve an application submitted by the City's Parks and Recreation Department.

The playground, which will fill about 12.5 acres on the property, has been in the works for several years now. In early 2016, the City held a design workshop at Willamette Primary School to solicit ideas and input specifically from the children who would be using the future park.

Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester said much of the final design — which includes such attractions as a zip line, a small amphitheater, a slide and a mud play area — was inspired by the feedback received at that workshop.

"Our real goal here is to try to get the community to recognize the social benefits of connecting with nature," Worcester said, "and really to try to model the park around the existing settings and take advantage of the unique characteristics of White Oak Savanna Park."

In keeping with its theme, the playground will include components made of recycled materials.

"We've saved materials from a lot of different projects — a lot of storm damage (materials) and then even some local construction projects where developers have had to remove trees," Worcester said. "We've saved all of the logs and things, so we have a pretty good assortment of materials available for the project."

He added that the playground will share few similarities with other city parks.

"Everything will be pretty much all natural materials," Worcester said. "While there's examples of metal slides and things like that (in the application), the likelihood of actually seeing a metal slide is pretty slim … we really wanted a close connection to the Oak Savanna story."

Perhaps the most exciting feature, in Worcester's eyes, is a mud play area that was inspired by a tree planting project several years ago at Wilderness Park.

"It didn't take (kids) too long to find a chute, and they were throwing water down the chute and created their own mud slide," Worcester said. "We thought parents would kind of freak out (about the mud play area), but it really is something folks will be excited about. There will be a place where you can hose off as well."

The amphitheater, meanwhile, will be too small for any large events like concerts, and is envisioned as more of a hub for educational activities.

"If we want to have a naturalist come in and talk, there's a place where people could congregate, sit down and listen to him," Worcester said. "But it's going to be pretty simple looking."

The park proposal was met with unanimous support from the planning commission.

"I think this is an amazing idea," Planning Commission Chair Gary Walvatne said. "It reminds me of my playing as a kid, and I live near Sahallie Illahee Park and my kids grew up playing in that park with some of these kinds of features."

"I think this is all really cool stuff, and really compliments what is already available in West Linn," commissioner Joel Metlen added.

Worcester said the City hopes to have the project complete by next spring.

"We'll get as much as we can done this summer," he said. "The goal is to get trails and some of those things in and ready to go, because it helps facilitate a lot of other construction."

By Patrick Malee
Assistant Editor, West Linn Tidings
Pamplin Media Group
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