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Chase, Krys and Logan Wilson have a fresh new space to care for when they come to play or walk their dogs at Sunrise Park.

The long-awaited new playground opened for use this week, and the Wilsons — who "adopted" the park last February through a city Parks & Recreation program — are giving it three thumbs-up.

"I have never liked a play structure so much in my life," declared Chase, 10.

Built sometime in the 1970s, Sunrise Park was included in Albany's 2006 parks master plan, but improvements had to wait until funding could be found, said Ed Hodney, director of Parks & Recreation.

Construction took $245,000, paid for through a community development block grant, and the city put in $85,000 from its parks fund for playground and other park equipment.

"Community development block grant money became available to us in 2015 and it took us two years to get wetland permits and stormwater discharge permits and things like that, and to finish the design on the park," he said. "We started construction in spring 2018 and the park is now open for business."

Some work remains. The city plans to put up a shade structure in the center of the colorful plaza, and to add picnic tables, benches, landscaping and a drinking fountain.

A third phase, planned for later this year, involves putting in a 10-foot-wide concrete path that stretches from the current path south and east to the apartment complex on the east side of the entrance from 24th Avenue.

In the meantime, however, the park is ready for play — and for parking, with a new entry and parking lot on its north side at the south end of Thurston Street behind Sunrise Elementary School.

Visitors will find two sizes of play structures: one geared toward smaller children, and a slightly larger one for the bigger kids.

The bigger structure features a triple slide, a bouncy bridge and a rubber balance ramp. The smaller structure has slides, too, plus a storefront-style window and a "caveman wall" featuring relief renderings of dinosaurs both in full body and bone form.

The swingset caters to all ages, including an infant swing and a swing that's accessible for wheelchair users. And there's a basketball hoop just off the plaza for anyone with a ball and some extra energy.

Krys Wilson, 8, said he especially liked the rubber balance ramp, which reminded him of a rock wall. "They should put rocks on it," he suggested.

Logan, 6, didn't take a time out to talk about his favorite aspects, but dad Deidra said he went straight for the swirly slide and the red-and-yellow staircase.

Hodney especially likes the fact that everything is new, and that it's located closer to Sunrise Elementary and to the neighboring homes. 

"There isn't one old piece of equipment out there anymore," he said. "It's all brand-new, up-to-date, modern equipment, and most important, safe."

The old playground was more tucked away toward the south end of the park, where late-night visitors often stopped by for drug use, he said.

"This gets everything closer to the neighbors and the school, which helps from a management standpoint," Hodney said.

The Wilson brothers attend Sunrise Elementary and visit the park almost daily, especially in the summer, Deidra Wilson said. All three also learned to ride bicycles there.

"We felt it was our job to keep it up," Deidra said.

Adopting the park has "become a good bonding experience," Deidra added. "It's really taught them a sense of community; everybody helping everybody."

Only 10 of Albany's 36 parks have been adopted to date, said Jill Van Buren, volunteer coordinator for Adopt a Park.

Individuals, businesses, groups and organizations all are invited to join in. "They get to decide what they think their parks need," she said.

Home Depot has provided tools for use on parks projects, and volunteers will receive free T-shirts — just made available this week — to mark them as members, Van Buren said. To learn more, contact Van Buren at 541-981-9973, or email her at mjvb47@gmail.com.

Chase said he recommends park adoption. The old Sunrise park was "a little messy," he acknowledged. "No one was ever here. When people did come, there was trash everywhere." 

He said he and his brothers were already picking up litter whenever they visited. "We figured adopting it would be a good way to take care if it and to do more."

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