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Oak Creek project takes a community

Oak Creek Elementary students will come back to class with their schoolyard transformed. Our playground has a whole new look thanks to hard work by many people in Lake Oswego.

Oak Creek School is a beautiful building, but our playground left much to be desired. Wedged onto a sloped site, erosion from years of runoff led to bumpy ground beneath our playground. Smack in the middle was a dying tree. Water was leaking from an unknown location.

Our swings had been located in a spot that meant kids had to run through it to get to the play structure. The hill had been overwhelmed by weeds. Our play structure is too small for our school population, but there was limited room for expansion.

Budget restraints in recent years meant our parent club had to focus on needs inside the building. But I and parent partner Karen Egan became determined to make changes outside as well. This led us on an 18-month journey of meetings with landscapers, playground manufactures, district representatives and city staff members.

So many helpful and responsive people came to our aid.

Principal Michael Esping kept us from giving up hope. Thanks go out to Lake Oswego staff members Tana Stewart, Rob Dreier and Stuart Ketzler, as well as the maintenance staff. Countless hours have been spent to make repairs. The Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Department generously gave Oak Creek a grant to pour a disabled-access path to the playground. Our PTA stood by us with support. In recent weeks, Oak Creek's playground turned the corner. Our swings are now safely tucked into the corner of the soccer field. The ground is level. A new wall kids can sit on surrounds the playground. Our current play structure looks dwarfed by all the area we've acquired.

Now, we can begin to raise money for new play equipment. This will not be an inexpensive proposition. Bids are being drafted, but we could need to raise between $40,000 to $60,000 to add to our play structure.

We hope the community will want to get involved. Oak Creek is a special place. Our students all live close enough to walk to the school. As a result, this is a year-round playground for the Westlake neighborhood. Our student population includes special education children from throughout the district. In addition, a Clackamas County early-intervention pre-school program is housed upstairs. The regulation-sized soccer field is used nine months out of the year by soccer and lacrosse teams.

We will raise money for more play equipment through many means, including selling personalized bricks and sponsorships of play equipment. We hope you will be inspired to help us make our dreams a reality. Children of all abilities will be happier and healthier as a result.

Teresa Luce Spangler is an Oak Creek Elementary School parent volunteer.