With the help of a major parent donation, Hallinan Elementary is set to tear down its old playground in favor of a modern one
by: Vern Uyetake, Four-year-old West Linn resident Adrian Newman, above, spends a beautiful summer day exploring the Hallinan Elementary playground under the watchful eye of his grandmother, Deborah Hoff of Wilsonville. Wednesday marked the final day of play at the original “Hawk Haven,” the school’s well-loved and well-known playground It will be torn down this week to make room for a new state-of-the-art play structure that designers say is the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. The project should be completed in late September.

Now's the time to say goodbye to the beloved Hallinan Elementary playground.

Today through next week, construction workers will take down 'Hawk Haven' piece-by-piece to make way for a modern, state-of-the-art play structure that will be one of the most elaborate of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.

Now, let the anticipation begin!

'The wait will be worth it,' Principal Steve Mauritz said.

When Hallinan's wooden playground went into place with parents' help in 1989, it was the crown jewel of the city. Children flocked from miles around to dangle on its monkey bars and scoot down its slides. A book called '100 Places to Visit in Portland' even included it on its list.

In the two decades since, it's fallen into disrepair and requires regular maintenance, such as sealing and treating the wood. Chains are turning red with rust and slides are losing their smoothness.

With the new playground, Hallinan officials hope to bring back its regional reputation and make every kid's recess dream come true.

'It's going to be just fabulous,' said Elizabeth Fox, president of the Hallinan Parent-Teacher Organization. 'It offers so much more to the kids than the previous design ... ways for them to learn and perfect their motor skills and upper body strength. It's going to be amazing.'

The 6,840-foot plastic and steel-coated structure features about 100 different 'activities' and can hold about 300 kids ages 5 through 12.

It will stretch longer and wider than the existing playground and include several educational tools, such as maps of the Earth and the United States.

'We joke that you'll be able to see it from space, like the Great Wall of China,' Mauritz said with a laugh.

Activities will present challenges to various age groups and encourage kids to create their games and use their imagination. Colored with earth tones of browns and greens, it's designed to blend in with its natural surroundings and mimic a hawk's living quarters. It will also be handicap accessible and meet current code requirements.

The focal point will be the Hexamid, an 18-foot six-sided web-like climbing structure made of reinforced cables and ropes. Riverdale Grade School also has one, and it's extremely popular at recess.

At first, Mauritz thought the school could update portions of the playground in several phases spanning three years. The PTO started a special committee for fund-raising and planning purposes.

Thankfully, the phase-in didn't happen. Instead, the PTO raised $60,000 through the school auction. Then, Hallinan parents Martin and Kimberly Hudler gave a significant donation to secure the $210,000 project.

Martin Hudler, who spent many years of his childhood in the hospital with a rare bone disease, was moved by the project's purpose - giving kids a place to play. The donation, he said, brings him great feelings of joy and accomplishment.

'As a kid, I couldn't play. I was robbed of a childhood,' said Hudler, who has two children at Hallinan. 'I want (my kids) to have all the things I didn't.'

Drawing out the project over several years was 'unacceptable' to Hudler, a developer with Lake Oswego's Bridgeport Group. He met with Mauritz to make sure the playground got done fast - and right. Now, he hopes he can lead by example.

'The community needs to recognize such assets and I hope they, too, will contribute as much as they can,' he said.

School staff and the PTO feel extremely grateful to the Hudlers and delighted to have the playground earlier than previously thought.

'He is one individual who clearly made a difference,' Mauritz said of Hudler.

The school chose Wildwood Playgrounds Northwest of Portland - a company known for creating the Rose Garden Children's Park in Washington Park - to design the new structure.

As the old playground is torn down, pieces will be thrown away or donated to local residents. One section will remain near the school as a a reminder of the past, Mauritz said.

Precision Commercial Construction of Portland will begin erecting the new playground after the start of the school year. It is their largest project to date, said Ed Davis, company president.

The timing, of course, presents several challenges to school staff. A makeshift fence should keep kids off the playground until its finished in late September, Mauritz said.

The school plans to host a ribbon cutting ceremony as a way to celebrate the end to a year-long dream.

The new playground will be open to the public from dawn to dusk, but the school is responsible for monitoring play only during school hours.

Mauritz and his staff will meet to discuss how to control the impending car and foot traffic. A list of playground rules will also be established, he added.

'We're going to let the process unfold,' he said. 'We're hoping by the first of the year we'll all be comfortable and settled in.'

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