Saturday, December 17, 2016

Nature Play in Urban Areas
By Jordan Beanblossom and Toraj Khavari

Let us reflect on how majority of us played growing up. Running in open fields, climbing trees, balancing on logs, building miniature water run stone mills, chasing siblings and friends while riding a stick pretending to be  on a horse, playing ball in open fields, and the list goes on. Nature and open play fields in metropolitan areas are diminishing with urban development. Does it really have to? A few acres of open natural space can do wonders.

Nature Play in Urban Areas has been Toraj Khavari’s focus and drive since early 2011. Toraj has been in A-dec since October 2008. First as a consultant and became an employee six years ago. He is a Solution Architect in the A-dec Information Services Department. Let us together explore Nature Play and why Toraj is so passionate about preserving and developing natural play areas.

Toraj and Irene have been married for 31 years.  They met in Bangor Maine, where Toraj emigrated from Iran and Irene lived. They both went to Maine Universities. They moved to Oregon two times, 1989 and 2005, with 10 years between in Connecticut. They lost their only son Easter of 1991. A few days after their son, Christopher funeral, during their grieving period, Fr. Tom Flanagan asked Toraj, “Would you and Irene like to get involved in taking care of orphans and widows?” Proved to be a life changing and great solution to deal with a loss of loved one ‘question’. Thereafter, Toraj and Irene started working with Fr. Flanagan and later Open Arm India. First Tanzania, then South India, and last project North India. They participated in fund raising and building two orphanages and schools from the ground up between 1991 through 2011.

Toraj and Irene nonprofit and volunteer work shifted from “Thinking Globally and Acting Globally” to “Thinking Globally and Acting Locally”. Their love for children shifted to local needs during 2011. Children of all ages need to play outside, move away from electronics, relax and meditate in nature, be physically active, and healthy wherever they live, small or large cities. The opportunity came, literally at their door step, to get involved and provide a safe nature play in City of Tigard Oregon, where they live.

Bull Mountain Park is located on the east side of Bull Mountain in Tigard. Oregon. Ten acres of forested trees, an open space meadow, and two creeks are beautiful treasures bringing nature to the neighborhood. The park was purchased by the City of Tigard using bond measure 34-181 funds. Bull Mountain Park was dedicated June 21, 2012 by Councilor Craig Dirksen, at that time Mayor of Tigard. The bond is limited to park land purchases and not park development. The Friends of Bull Mountain Park (FBMP), of which Toraj is Chairman and President, is a grassroots nonprofit Oregon company.  It was started to promote the land acquisition, and after the park dedication, to focus on the Bull Mountain Park development.

The Friends, business partners, professional services, and volunteers have achieved significant goals and milestones. More than 60 projects have been completed since the park dedication, June 21, 2012. FBMP has been working with City of Tigard, Tigard Park and Recreation Advisory Board, and local communities since 2012.  Through numerous public meetings with City of Tigard, Lango Hansen and Friends, ideas of neighbors and local citizens about park development have been received and considered.  Lango Hansen Landscape Architect Company worked with City of Tigard, Tigard Park and Recreation Advisory Board, Friends, and local communities during the concept design, 2013.  The Nature Play, Picnic Shelter, and The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Trails design, 2016. Multiple public meetings engaged all parties to influence the designs and discuss features. Toraj shares “Every week, I am honored and touched with generous stories.  I meet wonderful people, and I get a lot of pleasure by seeing children of all ages use the park. There are enough stories to fill more than 30 Newsletters since November 2012. The children noises, activities, and imaginations are so vivid at times that as the sunset approaches, kids are leaving the park, and the imaginary palaces, houses, dinosaurs, and solders fade away in the forest shadow. To be brought back the next time.”


ADA Trails:  Let us picture our dream together.  On a sunny day, a leisurely stroll on SW Woodshire Lane brings us to the new park entrance. A lovely clearing at the end of the road offers views into the park and an accessible sidewalk entrance from the street. Upon entering, a new ADA accessible friendly pathway offering a safe and circuitous route up to the new picnic shelter and nature play area. To the left and right of the entrance are views of the protected Phantom / Ghost orchid, one of Oregon’s most lovely and most prized endangered plant species.

The new all-weather asphalt pathway winds in and out of beautiful mature Douglas fir trees passing native groundcover and ferns, throughout scattered benches and picnic tables heading toward the shelter and play area. Dappled light fills the voluminous space that feels like a secret forest room under the canopies. Later down the path, a small interpretive sign highlights interesting facts about the site’s native habitat and plant communities.

Passing the round picnic area with ADA designed tables along the west side trail; we find a well-structured ADA outdoor toilet to accommodate all visitors. A tool shed next to toilet houses the equipment needed for the volunteers to assist the City in maintaining the area. The structures are cedar sided, well-structured, with metal roofing to last a long time. They have natural colors to blend with the environment.

The trails continue to the SW Alpine Crest ADA ramp and accessible friendly entrance. SW Alpine Crest switch back ramp accesses the East and West trails, Picnic Shelter, and Nature play. The following diagram describe the trails, pictorially.

Picnic Shelter: The Bull Mountain Park’s Picnic Shelter at SW Alpine Crest entrance welcomes the park visitors. The shelter is made of Southern Yellow Pine timber, 20 ft. by 20 ft., with a low pitch gable rectangular, 16 ft. standing seam metal roof over tongue and groove, housing the picnic shelter on a concrete floor. Oregon native plants along the pathway lead to a drinking water fountain and Basalt rock outcroppings between the Picnic Shelter and Nature Play. The Picnic Shelter and rock outcropping gallery enable the site visitors to enjoy the beautiful and natural features, at the same time overlooking the Nature Play and meadow. Parents and children caregivers can oversee the activities while seated on a higher elevation. The following three dimensional rendering describes the design in greater detail.
Nature Play: The Bull Mountain Park’s east and west edges of the park offer a unique and different experience from the more active center where the Nature Play is located. The quiet slopes offer serenity and a chance to explore the rich habitat and diverse terrain of the park. The more heavily-wooded areas are continually changing, with new plants sprouting, mature canopies enlarging, and transient wildlife such as deer and pileated woodpeckers passing through.

The Park’s SW Alpine Crest ADA ramp switch back leads to an ADA trail fork. The lower path leads along the rock outcropping gallery. The asphalt trail leads to Nature Play. Balanced logs securely posted on boulders with gentle slopes entice children of all ages to examine their balancing skills. The lowest log has a flat surface that enables and invites the younger children to balance their toys on the log or give a try to balancing on the log, itself. The balanced logs gently slope to stepping logs on one side, while the other side accommodates movable sticks to create natural tents and caves. Under the balanced logs provides ground floor activities. 

Ground level stepping logs gradually lead to a higher elevation. The highest log, 72 inches (6 ft.), standing tall, will have climbing fingerboards on one side and a stepping log on other side.  The tall log with climbing fingerboards invites older children to engage in outdoor activities.  The play structures are housed inside a 6 ft. fall zone. Concrete footing around the Nature Play area casing Engineered Wood Fiber. The following diagram is an artistic rendering of the Nature Play design. 
 10,430 Schribner Board Feet Cedar and Douglass Fir logs are delivered and available in the Park for the Nature Play construction. The logs meet the Nature Play architecture requirements and are incorporated in the design. The extra / selected logs will be used for education in form of wood carving and sculptures along the Nature Play, Picnic Area and Trails.

The Bull Mountain Park has six entrances. The Nature Play, Picnic Shelter and Basalt rock outcropping gallery theme are welcoming to park’s visitors from any of the entrances.  They are pleasing to eyes, natural, inviting, engaging, safe, ADA accessible friendly, and require minimum maintenance.


Visions, dreams, goals, and a beautiful park in the neighborhood will come to be reality, with deeds and actions. Thousands of in-kind dollars and volunteerism with minimum expenses have brought the park to today’s’ status and accommodations.  As you visit and walk through the park, as you go through the trails, as you see the picnic tables, benches, signs, etc. every amenity that you see has been groomed, touched, and cared for by volunteers. The ADA Trails, Picnic Shelter, Nature Play and related projects are estimated to cost $563,000.

Friends held six “Picnic in the Park” fund raiser events with entertainment. The “Picnic in the Park” events are directed to continue educating the communities while engaging the attendees in Nature play, healthy activities and bringing the neighborhood together.  Friends have donors as young as 3 years old with $1 to generous individuals, foundations, and grants supporting the Bull Mountain Park development. FBMP is actively seeking and requesting funds, applying for grants, selling picnic blankets, jewelry, etc. to meet the remainder financial need.
 Friends have selected a contractor to build the ADA Trails, Picnic Shelter and Nature Play starting Fall 2016, planning estimated completion summer of 2017. Everything built in the Park is capitalized and maintained by City of Tigard after construction completion.

When Irene and Toraj lost Christopher, when Fr. Flanagan asked them to get involved with volunteerism and nonprofit, they never could have imagined how their lives and efforts would be used for the benefit of children, and in this case, local ‘’children’ of all ages.   

Toraj quotes Prov. 28 “When the righteous triumph, there is great elation” followed by sharing “Out of triumph raises Glory; Irene and I have 100s of children around the world and one in Heaven.” 

Toraj shared “all of these achievements have been possible with support from my wife Irene, our A-dec family, the Friends board of directors, Metro, City of Tigard, business partners, and volunteers.”
 From Left to right – Front, Friends Board Members are, Sarah Soper and Virginia Hall, Linda Shaw (Friends Treasurer), Conrad Pearson (Donor), Toraj Khavari (Friends CEO and President), Bonnie Conger (Donor), Loni and Scott Parish (Donors).
From Left to right – Back, Tim Pepper (Friends Secretary), Jason Snider (City of Tigard Council President), Craig Dirksen (Metro Councilor).
Bruce Harbison and Jenn Eaten (Friends board members) are absent from the picture. 

Toraj concluded, “Always be concerned for people, live for a purpose, and leave a noteworthy legacy. Let us follow up next fall 2017 after the Ribbon-cutting ceremony when some of the construction is complete.” Can’t wait.

Follow the Friends of Bull Mountain Park in the following site.

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