Ready for prime time playtime

    Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune <br><p>Josh Parker works on the new playground at Bear Creek Park in November. {/p}

    After months of “agonizingly slow” delays, the Olsrud Family Community Playground at Bear Creek Park is finally ready for playtime.

    A ribbon-cutting is schedule for 11 a.m. Saturday, and city officials say the much-anticipated event will happen rain or shine.

    “I suppose it’s a little bit like Christmas,” said Al Densmore, the project’s fundraising coordinator. “The adults are out there getting ready for Christmas morning. It should feel that way hopefully to the kids, at least.”

    Construction of the $610,000 project began last summer with help from nearly 1,100 volunteers, city crews and architects from playground design firm Leathers, Inc.

    The original play structure was built in 1988 with help from the community, and the process was repeated this summer when the three-decade-old structure was ready for replacement.

    “It is a jewel that will be loved for generations, just like the original,” said Rich Rosenthal, Medford parks director.

    City officials say the expanded 18,500-square-foot play structure will be one of the largest in the region. The original play area was 9,500 square feet.

    The project was set to be completed in mid-October, but a warehouse fire in Georgia delayed the arrival of several pieces, including a slide and handicapped-accessible swing.

    “It just was agonizingly slow when we hit that supplier delay problem this summer,” Densmore said. “It felt just like rolling into quicksand and going absolutely nowhere. I think we’ll all be really happy to finally see the kids out there playing on it.”

    A final work day took place last weekend, with volunteers’ cars lining the streets and packing the parking lot at the city park.

    “This has been a very, very healthy thing for the community to do together,” Densmore said. “The ability for folks of all walks of life to get together and pitch in some time, a little bit of money and their ideas to help create something extraordinary together I think we just need to do it more often. You build communities by doing things like this.”

    The playground, previously called the Bear Creek Park playground, was renamed this summer in honor of the Olsrud Family and their decades of community support. A tribute plaque for Sherm and Wanda Olsrud is included in the new design.

    The plaque is “very well done,” Densmore said, and features that allow children with disabilities to play were a much-needed upgrade.

    “It feels like every time I go there, I see something a little bit different,” he said. “There are all these unique little things that you heard would be a part of it. You can’t imagine it all until you see it. It’s really just amazing.”

    Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at

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