Old field lights failed an inspection last year and had to be quickly replaced
The recent spate of freezing weather has likely cut down on the number of evening visitors to Lake Oswego's George Rogers Park, but that hasn't stopped maintenance crews from proceeding with an urgent project to replace the worn-out lights that loom over the athletic fields there.
When the weather finally warms up in a couple of months, returning park guests will find the area noticeably brighter, thanks to new LED lamps that have now been installed.
"Mostly we were finished before Christmas had started, as far as the pole installation," says Parks and Open Spaces Crew Leader Megan Big John. "So luckily the current weather didn't impact it."
The new set of eight lights and poles replace the 12 poles that have ringed the fields since 1981. A Parks & Recreation Department inspection last year revealed that all but two of the polls were in poor condition due to rot, decay and damage from insects and woodpeckers, which prompted the City Council to fund an immediate replacement project.
"Some of them had so much hard rot that you couldn't even tell if they had other stuff (like insect damage)," says Parks Superintendent Jeff Munro.
The project was estimated to cost as much as $500,000, half of which the City Council allocated from the 2016-2017 general fund. The remainder was covered by a budget surplus in the Parks department due to lower-than-expected costs for other maintenance issues last year.
But even with the funding available, Big John says the project had to be delayed to protect one of the park's wildlife residents: an osprey that nests on top of one of the poles. Federal law prohibits disturbing the nest while the bird is living in it.
"We did have some questions from field users about why we didn't do (the installation project) during the summer, and it was because of the osprey," Big John says. "We had to wait to start the project until we were outside of the nesting season, which ends around September."
With that hurdle cleared, the installation project got underway in November, with workers spending the first month extracting the old wooden poles and installing the new galvanized steel replacements. The project is now in its final phase: rewiring the field to power the lights.
"They're currently in the state of working on powering them up with a new transformer," says Munro. "It'll be finished no later than the middle of February."
The osprey nest has also been restored; it even includes pieces of the original nest, which were carefully preserved and rebuilt on top of one of the new poles by Parks Senior Utility Worker Tony Garcia.
The new LED lights will draw 50 percent less power than their conventional predecessors, and Munro says they'll also be more focused and cut down on light pollution in the surrounding neighborhood by as much as 97 percent. They're also stronger and expected to outlast the lifespan of their predecessors.
The need for the new lights at George Rogers Park came as a surprise to City staff, but the project fits in with a broader pattern of LED upgrades to municipal lights that the City has pursued in recent years. In 2013, the council voted to begin the first phase of a multi-year project that will eventually replace nearly 3,500 streetlights with LEDs throughout the city.
According to Lake Oswego Public Works Director Anthony Hooper, that project is a little more than two-thirds complete. There are 1,185 lights left to go in the project's "phase three," he said, which will begin in 2018 if funding can be secured this year.
"With what we've done so far," Hooper says, "we've reduced our PGE payments by around $180,000 per year."