The first phase of a three-step process to revitalize Bruce Starker Arts Park has made its debut.

The Corvallis Parks and Recreation Department held a celebration Friday to note the new playground equipment at the park in southwest Corvallis.

“This is fun and exciting,” said Corvallis Mayor Biff Traber. “To me playgrounds are fun and they make exercise easy.”

Traber’s granddaughter will be visiting from Boston this summer and the mayor said they always try to find a new playground to explore.

“I expect she will get up on these rocks and my wife will panic,” Traber said.

Ah, the rocks. The three-piece playground includes a swing set, a slide/tree cabin structure and a pair of rocks connected by climbing ropes that are about two feet off the ground.

The rocks, build by ID Sculpture of Gunnison, Colorado, are pretty amazing. The texture is rock-like and if you rap your knuckles on them … it FEELS like rock. The rocks have handholds and crevices that allow kids to scurry to the top in no time.

Karen Emery, Parks and Recreation director, said that this is the first time the city has purchased playground equipment from ID Sculpture and that these are the most realistic-looking playground rocks she has ever seen.

The slide structure has a rope ladder rather than conventional stair steps, making it a bit of a challenge for some youngsters. Inside the cabin portion of the German-made structure is a netting of rope and a fire pole as an alternate route to the barkdust below.

Emery said the department already has received some feedback from users indicating a preference for a platform instead of the rope netting.

The updated playground equipment, which has been open about two weeks, is being paid for by a $300,000 donation from the Starker family.

Traber noted the significance of the gift in these days of stressed municipal budgets.

“We do a lot more with donations and gifts,” Traber said, “and when we received the Starker donation it put the project at the top of the list and we were able to get it built.”

The playground was paid for by the first of three $100,000 Starker family donations. The second phase will tackle improvements at the pond and the third will upgrade the stage and roof of the amphitheater.

Emery said the city plans to start the pond work during the 2017-18 fiscal year but that no timeline has been set as the city must determine the best time to install the native plantings going into the pond area.

The amphitheater work is tentatively scheduled to be performed in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

“Parks are the most intergenerational thing we have in the city,” said Ward 1 Councilor Penny York, who brought her great-granddaughter to the event.

A cadre of Starker family pre-teens helped Emery cut a ribbon to commemorate the opening, and popsicles were passed out to help offset the 90-degree weather.

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Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.