New Keizer skate park is union made

KEIZER, Ore. - Practically every kid in town turned out for the ribbon-cutting ceremony July 10 at the new Keizer multi-use skate park - which was christened "Carlson Skate Park" by city officials in tribute to the union family that made it a reality.

Union banners were on display everywhere, with many union locals staffing booths and giving away hot dogs, snow cones and other treats.

"Look for the union label - you don't have to look too far," said Keizer Mayor Bob Newton, pointing to all the union banners. "Without the unions' participation this skate park would have never come to pass," he said, adding that it is the largest outdoor skate park in the Western United States.

Four-and-a-half years ago, Steve and Charlane Carlson had a vision to create a hassle-free place for young people in this small town north of Salem to go to skateboard, in-line skate, and ride BMX bikes. "We wanted to create a place where kids could go - as opposed to hanging out at shopping centers or being chased off parking lots by business owners or police," said Charlane.

So, in March 1995, Charlane, a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, stepped out her front door with fliers in hand to drum up support for a multi-use skate park.

The excitement and energy of the young people, and their willingness to support the Carlsons, led to the formation of the Keizer Skate Park Committee.

After many hours of research, phone calls, discussions of fundraising ideas, and design suggestions from kids, a formal presentation was made to the Keizer Parks Advisory Board in April 1996.

The board's unanimous consent to support the proposal brought the Skate Park Committee to the City Council on Jan. 21, 1997. After much persuasion, the council committed to the project by donating a parcel of land at Chalmers Jones Park, located behind Keizer City Hall and the police station.

The official groundbreaking took place April 12, 1998.

"It became a full-time job for Charlane and a part-time job for me," said Steve, a 21-year member of the Carpenters Union. The Carlsons do not have children who skateboard or bike.

Charlane hit the phones seeking donations. Because of their union background, the first group they contacted was organized labor - not only for financial help, but volunteer skilled labor and help from apprenticeship training programs.

"We wanted to do as much as possible with union labor," Charlane said.

The unions didn't let them down.

"I'm overwhelmed," said Mike Draper, a regional vice president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners International Union, who was a guest speaker at the ribbon cutting. "This skate park is a reminder of what organized labor and a community can do working together," he said.

"This park represents what labor is all about - people working for and caring about people."

Carlson Skate Park was made of 353 cubic yards of concrete, 460 tons of rock, eight miles of rebar, and hundreds and hundreds of hours of sweat from volunteer workers.

Bob Clerihew, president of Portland-based Iron Workers Local 29, and Business Representative Jeff Carlson (no relation to Steve) - neither of whom lives in Keizer - donated more than 400 hours of their own time to the project. Iron Workers apprentices also donated time in fabricating and installing much of the rebar and piping.

"This is one of the best things I've seen organized labor do in a long, long time," Clerihew said.

City officials estimated it would have cost $360,000 to have a contractor build the skate park. Besides the land, cash donations totaled $30,000.

Many of the largest contributions came from labor organizations. Early on the Marion-Polk-Yamhill Counties Labor Council donated $500, the Professional Fire Fighters Association of Marion County contributed $1,000, and the Pacific Northwest District Council of Carpenters spent several hundred dollars providing lunches for the volunteers and will purchase a plaque acknowledging labor's role in building the skate park

Other labor organizations contributing were Carpenters Local 1065, Carpenters Local 1388, Carpenters Local 1094, Wil-lamette Carpenters Training Center, Western Council of Industrial Workers, Iron Workers Local 29, Plumbers and Fitters Local 290, Electrical Workers Local 280, UFCW Local 555, Painters and Tapers Local 724, Painters District Council 5, Laborers Apprenticeship Training Center, Salem Building and Construction Trades Council, and Communications Workers Local 7904.

Nearly three dozen local businesses contributed material, time and expertise to the project. A staff person for Congresswoman Darlene Hooley, D-Fifth District, presented the Carlsons with a special congressional certificate of recognition.

As youngsters clamored at the edges of the skate park, eager to take their first jump (or spill), Steve Carlson - prior to cutting the ribbon to mark the opening - asked the kids to "respect the park and respect each other."

Steve, a member of Carpenters Local 1065, was recently hired by the Chehalem Parks and Recreation District to be project manager on a new skate park under construction in Newberg. "They signed a union contract with the Carpenters to get Steve," Charlane said.

The Carlsons have also received several calls from neighbors asking them to help raise money to build a pool in Keizer and assist on other fundraising projects. And Draper even half-jokingly asked Charlane to head up his union re-election campaign next year.

"After four-and-a-half years on this project, we've had to tell them no, not at this time," Charlane said.

August 6, 1999 issue

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