HARP

HARP staffers Alexa Carey, Erica Lewis and Katie Roseboro, from left, have been working on many projects, including a concept for Albany airport mural shown on the screen. (Mark Ylen/Democrat-Herald)

Albany’s HARP program  expects to end sometime in August, but the organizers are confident its contributions will have a lasting effect, and even grow.

The Historic Albany Recovery Program is the brainchild of Michael Waldock, 73, a retired business executive.

It’s a think tank, he explains as he and two of his interns — Katie Roseboro and Erica Lewis — show a visitor around their temporary downtown office. (The third staffer, Alexa Carey, was not there right then.)

Flip charts cover the walls of the sparsely furnished place, listing projects already done, some yet to be completed and many — like a  covered bridge connecting Bryant and Monteith parks — that exist only as a dream.

The mission was to find innovative ways to boost the Albany economy.

The results so far may be hard to measure, but Waldock says they are real and growing. For instance, HARP arranged for students at Albany Options School to work on the restoration of three fighter jets stored in pieces at the Albany Airport and destined to be displayed on poles in different flight positions as if taking off. The students put in nearly 300 hours so far, learning skills, earning school credits and saving the city an estimated $6,000 in labor.

When HARP winds up, Waldock says, it will leave a plan for the next steps — using volunteers to the maximum extent — of finishing the “planes on sticks.”

In 2011 the city allocated $68,000 to HARP. Waldock is volunteering, and to make the money stretch, interns working for HARP have been on a part-time schedule. They expect to run out of funds in August. No new money is budgeted.

“It is regrettable that HARP will not receive funding to continue its work, but the staff is very pleased with all that has been accomplished,” the group said in a statement this week.

The visitor gets a taste of what they’ve done and what is yet to come.

Arranged by HARP, Albany school bands have met Amtrak’s northbound Coast Starlight on Saturday afternoons, playing on the platform 14 times so far, earning a $100 contribution to the school band each time. South Albany’s band continues the series this spring.

Waldock has high hopes for rugby as well. HARP arranged for the sport to be introduced to Albany schools. If they stick with it, students have a chance to earn rugby college scholarships and then get good enough to defend the United States gold medal, won in 1924, when rugby returns to the Olympics in 2016.

There’s plenty more, and the team hopes to present a full report to the city council soon.

Waldock has said he and his wife have plans eventually to move to Portland. But if that happens while HARP is still going, he vows to return  two days a week to help complete what he began.

PENDING PROJECTS

  • Get artists to paint pictures of Albany attractions on the airport’s hangar walls facing the freeway. Computer screens show murals of the Art and Air Festival and the Albany Carousel.
  • They’ve contacted an equipment manufacturer about the plan to construct a tree-top adventure course — no longer strictly a zip line as originally contemplated — in Bryant Park. Veterans would help build and run it.
  • Organize a volunteer fair to help people their age — the interns range from 20 to 24 — get involved with their community
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