Kids could be zip lining, climbing and sliding at a new playground in River Forks Park by Labor Day weekend.

The structure, now under construction, will replace the old playground near Willie the whale, which was removed in 2016.

“It was going to be expensive to fix it,” Douglas County Parks Director Rocky Houston said of the 30-year-old playground.

So, the county planned to build something new.

Houston said a state parks grant will cover $75,000 of the $170,000 cost. The remainder will come from the county’s capital funds.

The new playground is being designed with children aged 5 to 12 in mind.

Houston described it as “nature play fusion” and said it will include features such as hollow logs, a climbing apparatus and a zip line.

While construction is underway, the water to the adjacent whales has been shut off, partly because the pipe connected to Willie needs to be fixed. The water should be turned back on in early August, according to county spokesperson Tamara Osborne.

Grants Pass-based Playcraft Systems supplied the equipment. On Wednesday, Larry Sells from Between the Lines Carpentry, a sub-contractor for Playcraft, was on site installing structures.

After the equipment is installed, a concrete curb is going to circle the structure and rubber tile surfacing will be put down.

The rubber is not only softer for landing, but Houston said it’s more cost effective and “from a maintenance perspective they should be good for a long time.”

Houston said when the playground was initially closed down many residents were upset.

“When we made the announcement to close the playground we had a lot of public outcry,” Houston said.

He said residents were trying to come up with different ways to keep the dilapidated structure open, but the equipment was eventually removed because of safety concerns.

River Forks is one of the county’s most popular parks.

“It’s always been a special place,” Houston said.

While a lot of the money gathered from day use fees and annual passes goes to maintenance, Houston said the playground provides a visible change for park visitors.

“People can see that their money is being reinvested,” Houston said.

Next summer, Houston said the parks department plans to replace the restrooms in the park.

“We take care of these very sought after recreational resources,” he said.

Houston said the parks department has identified $15 million in deferred maintenance in the county park system.

“A lot of our restrooms are older than me,” Houston said. “So we’re trying to get those updated.”

Houston said there aren’t fancy renderings to show what the playground will look like, so people will have to wait and see.

“In general, I think people are excited to see how it is,” Houston said.

The work is expected to be done by Sept. 1.

Saphara Harrell can be reached at 541-957-4216 or Or on Twitter


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Crime and Natural Resources Reporter

Saphara Harrell is the crime and natural resources reporter for The News-Review. She previously worked at The World in Coos Bay. Follow her on Twitter @daisysaphara.

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