New Lents Park Playground opens

Take a look, and find out when they’re having a party – including cake – at this new outer East Portland playground …

During a sneak-preview, kids and parents rush in to experience the all new Lents Park Playground.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Many improvements have been made to Lents Park by Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) over the years – including refurbishing Charles B. Walker Stadium, to host the Portland Pickles collegiate wood-bat baseball team.

But, along the south side of park, between SE 88th and 92nd Avenues, along Steele Street, the children’s playground – installed in the 1970s – has languished. Up until now!

“We’re really excited about opening this new playground,” says PP&R Project Manager Gary Datka.

“It was fine when it was first installed; and we did a renovation in the 1980s – but this is first renovation of the playground since then,” said PP&R Project Manager Gary Datka during a “sneak preview” play session on the afternoon of September 21.

Funding for the project, officially called the “Lents Park Playground Renovation”, came from the 2014 Parks Renovation Bond, and is the first playground completed as part of that bond program, Gary Datka told East Portland News.

A couple dozen kids and parents were admitted through the temporary chain-link construction fence surrounding the playground, and gleefully explored the playground, needing no instructions about how to use the new amenities they found.

Although there are two built-in metal slides, Levi Hilton decides to slide down the artificial turn of this slope.

“We’ve taken out the old wooden playground structures, and replaced them with a lot of new really-great play equipment – including lots of slides, good things to climb on, a spinning dish, musical instruments, a little stage area for the kids to play in. And yes, there are swing sets – one of them is a child’s ADA-compliant swing,” Datka pointed out.

Contractors also dug out the old “engineered wood fiber” wood chips, and replaced that with a more durable – and colorful – safety play surface.

A combination of artificial brightly-colored surfaces is surrounded by natural landscaping, to open the imagination of youngsters.

While it’s not a “nature play area”, as has become popular these days, it’s certainly a lot more than the old-fashioned grouping of swings, a slide, and monkey-bars, Datka observed. “We’ve created a variety of spaces; including a continuously-contoured area that replaces the stairs between the once-divided upper and lower areas.”

Budding musicians are attracted to this metal-bar-chime xylophone.

In doing this, they engineered a number of different challenges with differing degrees of difficulty, Datka said – ranging from gentle, rolling slopes, to mounds to steeper slopes to slide down.

“We also brought in some tactile objects, like large climbing boulders that kids can sit on, providing a little more of a social aspect to the park,” Datka said.

With this permanently-installed climbing wall structure, kids need no longer wait for summertime events.

PP&R is famous for their portable “climbing walls” available at summer events; Lents Park Playground now features a rectangular, permanently- installed climbing structure. “This is the first one of its kind in our park system!” announced Datka.

“The renovation took us a little bit longer than expected, a total of about five months, including rain delays in the spring; but, we did have good contractors who did keep working at the project,” remarked Datka about the renovation, budgeted at $890,000.

Play Date at Lents Park October 14
On Saturday, October 14, from 1:00 until 3:00 p.m., PP&R is hosting what they call a “Play Date at Lents Park”. Come by for free cake, and special activities at the playground and on the new soccer field.

> On our Front Page: Aurelia Philo surveys the new playground from atop a play hump.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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