Open space has been a plus for students

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Canby Community Preschool teachers (from left) Corey Lohman, Andy Fowler, Anne Bangs and former CCP teacher Julie O'Connor officially open the new play area as a group of students look on.A healthy dose of dreaming, planning, fundraising and good old-fashioned hard work led to a landmark event for the Canby Community Preschool recently.

A group of 70 parents, friends and alumni of the preschool gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of a new playground facility. The event brought smiles of joy and a few tears of satisfaction in the process.

“We couldn't have done this without the help from our alumni and current preschool families, along with the generosity of local businesses,” said teacher Andy Fowler, visibly moved. “It was a community effort and we couldn't be more proud to have our home at the United Methodist Church in Canby.”

Canby Community Preschool rents classroom space from the United Methodist Church on Territorial Road and Holly Street. The last eight years the school has been at UMC after getting its start at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Canby. The preschool began in the fall of 1995 as Canby Cooperative Preschool.

When it separated from the Canby School District in 2002, the name was changed to Canby Community Preschool. It offers two 3-year-old classes, two 4-year-old classes, and one 3/4-year-old blend class.

For the school’s students, the path to the new playground actually began five years ago.

“When my son attended CCP, it was the first year in the current location,” said teacher Anne Bangs. “The playground was small but adequate. I didn’t give it any thought. It wasn’t until after I became a teacher at CCP that I started to feel like it could be improved.”

The powers-that-be at United Methodist Church agreed.

“Five years ago, UMC generously gave the green light to expand the existing playground,” said Tracie Heidt, who has been with the preschool for four years.

What resulted was installation of a fence around the bark-chipped play structure area and around a larger space comprising a small open field, which doubled the play space.

“The kids relished the new open space,” said Heidt. “Teachers Andy Fowler and Anne Bangs then started dreaming up the possibilities for the 100-foot by 100-foot grassy field. The preschool saved ‘wish list’ money from its yearly spring auction to manifest the dream playground they were envisioning.”

In the spring of 2012, Emerick Construction president and preschool parent Corey Lohman donated the construction labor and materials for a cement bike path to encircle the space. Emerick also built a bike shed on site, Heidt said.

Liz Thorstenson, preschool parent and landscape architect of Green Bridge Studio, designed the plans for the decorative metal arbor, the hardscape layout and the landscaping, which includes water-wise, native Oregon plants.

The metal canoe and a large wooden truck, built by preschool parent Dana Geister last spring, add to the interest of the space.

This fall, teachers and some of the preschool families worked together to complete the project by planting more than 100 plants, most of which were donated by nursery-owning preschool families and other local nurseries.

“I have to pinch myself every time I see it. I can't believe we made it happen,” Bangs said. “It has been years in the making and it is only going to get better and better as the years go by. It's truly unbelievable and we are so lucky to have the support we have. It is overwhelming. We are so very thankful."