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Young planner thinks big

INDEPENDENCE -- There could come a day when Independence's riverfront is dotted with brand new baseball, softball and soccer fields.

Alfredo Najar's senior project looks ahead for Independence.

Photo by Sarah Hillman

Alfredo Najar's senior project looks ahead for Independence.

January 17, 2007

INDEPENDENCE -- There could come a day when Independence's riverfront is dotted with brand new baseball, softball and soccer fields.

If that ever comes to pass, Alfredo Najar says he'll take pride in knowing that he played a small role in the idea's earliest stages.

As part of his senior project at Central High School, the 17-year old from Independence worked with city officials to produce conceptual drawings for athletic facilities as part of a larger proposed enhancement project.

Those plans have since been submitted to U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley, with the hopes that the congresswoman remembers them if her bill targeting revitalization for Willamette River communities survives the legislative process.

"It was fun having an opportunity to do something for the city," Najar said. "Hopefully, they can do something with the drawings."

Officials have toyed with the premise of building athletic fields along the river since 1997, when it was included as a feature of a potential greenway development in a parks master plan.

It's still only an idea at this point, but there has been some movement, said Shawn Irvine, community development technician.

City leaders want to erect a new boat ramp about half a mile downstream from the existing one, and have held discussions with the owner of a 66-acre parcel north of Riverview Park.

Irvine said the owner has expressed some interest in providing space for a ramp, as well as the ball fields.

"We're trying to look for ways that a developer could build on the western portion of the property, while giving us the lower portion to build the fields and the boat ramp," he said.

Officials have applied for state funding for the ramp, and decided last fall to put together a development concept for consideration by Representative Hooley.

She plans to introduce legislation aimed at economic and recreational opportunities for communities along the Willamette River.

Missing was a visual representation of the ball fields, which is how Najar got involved, Irvine said.

"We thought it was important for them to see how this might fit into the property," he said.

Last fall, the CHS student and aspiring architect was looking for a way to incorporate skills learned in his computer drafting and design class into his senior project.

His adviser sent him to Irvine, who was searching for a cheap way to create drawings for the proposed riverfront concept.

He tasked Najar with creating layout combinations for baseball, softball and soccer fields on a portion of the aforementioned land.

"I told him to research how big the fields were, gave him the concept design for the boat ramp, a survey map of the property and turned him loose," Irvine said.

Najar started the project in November, and worked a couple of hours a day to meet a city-set, mid-December deadline.

"There was some pressure to it," Najar said. "This was something bigger than just me trying to get a grade...we're trying to get money for the community."

Najar came up with three layouts, each containing different field combinations and parking spaces. As an avid soccer player and a sweeper on Central's mens team, Najar said he couldn't help favoring one design in which he fit 15 soccer fields onto the map.

"I thought he did a really great job," Irvine said. "Everything is still up for negotiation, but we wanted to show what the possibilities might be."

Najar, who plans to study architecture after graduating, said Independence could use more athletic facilities and would love to see the concept brought to life.

"In high school, we're always traveling somewhere else for (soccer) jamborees," he said. "It would have been nice to have one closer to home."

Najar admits the prospect of an element of his work showing up in the final product is intriguing. But he notes his drawings were simply the first visual representation of a project in its infancy.

Still, he was happy to have been involved.

"This gave me a little of everything, experience in drafting and architectural design," he said. "I had fun doing this."