Laughter echoes beneath tall fir trees. Children zig and zag between a series of brightly colored play structures at Skyline Ridge Park in West Linn. The park - surrounded by grass, tennis courts and neighboring houses - is a hub for activity when the weather warms up.
'I like the slide 'cause you can climb up it. We come here every day almost,' said elementary school student Ian Anderson, sitting at the top of some play equipment. 'This is the best neighborhood - with a pool, tennis courts and the slide.'
Situated at the peak of the Skyline Ridge neighborhood, the park brings neighbors together. And the neighborhood reminds them of why they're there.
'Many of us take our kids to the park, which gives the adults a chance to catch up while the kids are playing,' said Bess Olmsted, neighbor. 'When summer arrives, we all tend to spend more and more time outdoors - backyard BBQs and play dates.'
Off Highway 43, and past the tip of Marylhurst Drive, 141 houses sit on the edge of the world. With views of four mountains, well-manicured yards and roads that twist and turn through the sky, Skyline Ridge couldn't have a better name.
'We liked the secluded feel of the neighborhood, the lack of traffic and the friendliness of the homeowners,' said Mitch Brock, Skyline Ridge Neighborhood Association president. 'The density of the houses is somewhat less than other newer subdivisions, giving a more open feel to the surroundings. There is quite a bit of green space and tall trees can be seen everywhere.'
While the area is a bit distant from the rest of West Linn - surrounded by wilderness and plotted with many dead end or circular streets - the atmosphere is anything but aloof.
Brock described his neighborhood as a small town - a place where people look out for one another, old neighbors welcome new ones and the Fourth of July is a holiday to be celebrated. Last year more than 200 neighbors participated in a tug-of-war, sack races, water balloon fights and ice cream sundae bar, he said.
Olmsted said that holidays tend to bring everyone together, again.
'Just today I received an email from one of the neighborhood moms interested in getting all the kids together at the park for an Easter egg hunt,' said Olmsted.
But when the sun isn't shining and holidays are months away, some neighbors agreed that there's just something special about their hill.
'We immediately noticed the overall quality of life here was really high. There's outdoor things to do and we like the roses around our property,' said Chris McDonald, neighbor, who plays tennis at the park. 'And there's virtually no bugs. We came here from Baton Rouge. What a difference.'
Brock's family moved to the neighborhood from Texas; Olmsted's came from California. Many new neighbors find commonality and appreciation for the Skyline Ridge area and become involved with activities and discussions about the area. Olmsted said she makes a point to meet new folks moving in whenever possible.
The neighborhood association - formed in 1994 - meets three or four times a year to discuss upcoming picnics, live music in West Linn, safety, neighborhood expansion and maintenance items, depending on the season. New families with children keep moving into the neighborhood, said Olmsted, and at least one day a year the roads tend to be closed when it's icy.
'Skyline Ridge is not on the way to anywhere, so there is virtually no through traffic,' said Brock. 'The steepness of terrain and remoteness of our neighborhood from heavily traveled roads can make winter commuting on icy roads quite challenging. The city is generally quite good about keeping our steep streets plowed and sanded.'
But, as spring arrives, azaleas and rhododendrons take bloom and plum, cherry and dogwood trees come alive. In late afternoon the park becomes a small Disneyland, crawling with kids whose imaginations run wild. Some swing, some chase each other, others have pine cone wars.
Come nightfall, pink and orange sunsets viewed from the ridge can be stunning.
'We live in a beautiful, tree-lined area. Kids are safe to walk their dogs and the park is always full,' said Olmsted. 'I enjoy my neighbors and it's a safe place to raise my kids.'