Playing (music) in the park
While visiting his daughter in Stockholm, Sweden, former West Linn-Wilsonville School District Superintendent Roger Woehl found inspiration for the project he's been working on for the past year.
Woehl was impressed by Sweden's parks, and in particular the musical instruments on the playgrounds. Now, he is building similar instruments to add to West Linn parks.
So far, Woehl's instruments are in Hammerle Park, and he plans to place others in Willamette, Fields Bridge and Douglas parks.
Woehl, who served as WL-WV Superintendent for 18 years and retired in 2011, said he went to former Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester about a year ago with his idea to build instruments for the parks, and Worcester told him to go for it.
While Woehl said he doesn't have much experience with music, he has built much of the furniture in his own house as well as for the homes of his five kids.
So far, Woehl has built nine instruments including several xylophone-type instruments, sets of bells, triangles and more. He would like each park to have about five instruments, forming what he called a "music garden." Some of his newer creations resemble flowers.
"The xylophones are fairly in tune, so somebody that knows some music could play some stuff on the xylophones," he said. Some of his other instruments aren't note-based but make different sounds that he thinks are nice.
Woehl said he could build an instrument in a day, but doesn't always have all the necessary materials on hand.
"Metal is not cheap, so I kind of pace it, and I've also been asking for donations, any unwanted pipes or anything," he said.
According to Woehl's research of other park instruments for sale online, creations similar to his sell for as much as $3,000. This research inspired some of his designs, he said, "But at some point you start imagining your own designs."
Woehl said his favorite instruments are the xylophones, which, according to him, should technically be called glockenspiels. His metalwork for this project has brought out some of the welding skills he learned in high school, he noted.
According to Woehl, having instruments in the park will help show kids the value of music.
"If you don't see music in the parks, then the absence is an expression that it's not valued, whereas the presence says 'music is good,'" he said.
He also mentioned the instruments are an option for kids who don't enjoy the usual playground equipment to still have fun in the park. Woehl said he hopes the instruments bring joy to the kids who play them.
Woehl's instruments in Hammerle Park are now in the spot where a slide was removed late last year. The removal of the slide—which according to Parks and Rec Director Ken Warner was due to safety concerns and completely unrelated to the installation of instruments —raised concern from some citizens who seemed to prefer the more traditional play equipment to Woehl's instruments.
Warner said Woehl showed up at the next Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting after he learned of the concerns, to make sure his instruments were all right with the board.
"I felt like I needed to own up and say, 'I built those. I donated them. They're not intended to replace your favorite playground equipment,'" Woehl said.
According to Warner, the City regularly reviews playground equipment for safety concerns.
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