2008 bond measure funds upgrades to A.M. Kennedy and Vista Brook parks

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Gery Keck, A.M. Kennedy Park project planner with the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District, looks over the park's landscape plans now that the renovations are complete.It may be late for the spate of warmth and sunshine that October delivered, but the reopening of A.M. Kennedy and Vista Brook parks after being closed for months of renovations should still bring joy to the hearts of neighbors and nature lovers around Beaverton’s eastern flank.

A.M. Kennedy Park, 10200 S.W. Kennedy St., reopened Oct. 25, about a year after the $1.3 million project began at the serene 8.3-acre site, which seems considerably farther from the busy Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway than the few blocks’ distance would suggest.

Crews with Brown Construction worked throughout the summer and early fall to expand the formerly 5.3-acre park with amenities including a sports field, picnic shelter, new Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible playground equipment, paved and soft-surface trails, split-rail fencing, a community gardens area and drinking fountains. Parking options at the park have increased, courtesy of a new bridge across Hall Creek and an agreement with the Oregon Society of Certified Public Accountants, a neighboring business on Southwest Laurel Street. The business offers up its parking lot for evening and weekend use.

A paved, regulation-size basketball court is the only one of the park’s original amenities that remains.

New place to play

Funded by the $100 million bond measure district voters approved in 2008, the $1.5 million project upgraded the area from what had been the isolated court and wooded area bisected by a trail and a small field adjacent to a privately-owned house.

“It was mostly a wooded area, now it has a little bit of everything,” said Gery Keck, project manager with the park district, noting the project went slightly over its original budget. “It’s a nice addition to the neighborhood, for sure.”

The district purchased the house along with an adjacent piece of property, clearing the structure to make room for a sports field large enough to accommodate programmed activities. The third athletics field funded by the bond measure, Keck said it will be programmed for play next summer once the grass matures.

Thousands of native trees and shrubs were planted at the site, while some of the larger trees removed were cut into 14-foot-long benches placed around the park.

The park district worked with the city of Beaverton and Washington County officials to pave Southwest Kennedy and Laurel streets, which bookend the park to the north and south, with concrete curbs and gutters, wider lanes and new sidewalks on Kennedy Street.

The district collaborated with Washington County’s Clean Water Services to build bioswales — planted gullies that filter water runoff from park surfaces before it reaches nearby Hall TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Walkers enjoy the environs of the improved Vista Brook Park off Southwest 88th Avenue.

Fit for a duck

A few miles southeast, Vista Brook Park, tucked away at the end of a winding road at 6697 S.W. 88th Ave. near Scholls Ferry Road, also reopened Oct. 25, about a month ahead of schedule, said THPRD project manager Tim Bonnin.

The 4.1-acre park closed in June for a $530,000 renovation that includes two new half-court basketball facilities, one with shorter-than-regulation 8-foot hoops, as well as separate play equipment for smaller children ages 2 to 5, and older kids from 5 to 12 years old.

Other improvements include a paved, ADA-accessible parking lot, two paved trails that connect the park to the adjacent Fanno Creek Regional Trail, resurfacing of the two tennis courts and re-grading and seeding of the field — which won’t be programmed for organized athletics, Bonnin noted. Round, wooden “steppers” around the playground areas were created from trees at Lowami-Hart Woods Natural Area, another bond-funded work in progress on Southwest Hart Road.

A sturdy boardwalk and viewing platform at Vista Brook now lets visitors take in a surprisingly expansive and scenic pond formed from a natural depression that collects storm water from the surrounding area. The pond also draws waterfowl including egrets, great blue heron, mallards and seasonally nesting wood ducks.

A $25,000 grant from the Oregon Park and Recreation Department provided partial funding for the project.

“We really opened up the park,” Bonnin said. “It was a very uninviting experience (before). It really felt like a dead-end street. It was not the type of setting we’d want to have the park in. Now it’s bright and far more inviting than it was.”

As he strolled through the neighborhood park on Monday afternoon, Peter Gray, a resident of the nearby Frank Estate apartment complex, was impressed with the improvements he encountered.

“I love the playground, where there’s one for older kids and one for toddlers,” he said. “On the weekend, I saw a lot of families and dogs. I think people are really starting to discover it.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tim Bonnin, Vista Brook park planner with the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District, discusses the landscape improvements to the park at its pond viewing area, which includes a boardwalk and platform.

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