A play structure at Shawala Point in Corvallis’ Riverfront Park will honor the short life of a little boy and pay tribute to the Kalapuya people who lived in the Corvallis area in pre-settlement times.
Trish Weber has begun fundraising for the memorial for her son, Nigel Rose Weber, and says she hopes to raise $30,000 for the play structure, which will be in the shape of a traditional Kalapuya bowl. The bowl, about 4 feet tall, will have handholds for kids to climb on it.
Seven-year old Nigel died unexpectedly April 4, 2014, after staying home from school for an illness.
Weber says in addition to the climbing wall, the memorial will have a rubberized mat area around the structure, several concrete benches shaped like traditional Kalapuyan canoes, concrete planters containing native plants significant to the Kalapuya people and interpretive signage.
Weber is an activist who fights “extreme energy projects — pipelines, tar sands development all over the U.S. and Canada,” and says through her activism she has forged alliances with indigenous peoples. When the idea came for the memorial, she says, she wanted to honor the native people who once lived there. The memorial will be a piece of art, a sculpture, but art that kids can play on.
“He was an awesome kid,” Weber says of her son. “If our communities are able to grow more deeply connected as a result of his having lived and our having lost him, I think his life will have been well memorialized.”
The design of the play structure was developed with the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde, which include the Kalapuya. Kathy Cole of CTGR says the location at Shawala Point is one that would have been perfect as a beach landing for canoes.
Cole says, “We’ve worked with other cities on art projects but never a memorial, so this is even more special.” She adds that when it comes to this project, “I’m a little biased because I’ve lost a son too,” and she sees the project as a way to honor Nigel’s life, “memorialize him and also bring the community together.”
According to Jacqueline Rochefort of Corvallis Parks and Recreation, while Corvallis has done memorials in the past — she cites the Jim and Ruth Howland Memorial Plaza and the Helen Berg Memorial Sculpture as similar examples — she says that “this project is unique in how closely we are working with the family on something as tangible as a play structure.”
Rochefort says the project is “a late addition to the Capital Improvement Plan,” adding that the Corvallis City Council will review and vote to adopt the plan at its June 2 meeting. She adds that city staff “is also reviewing the site to determine permit requirements.”
She says if the project is approved for this location, which is still in need of a master plan, then “a play structure that honors both the Native American culture of the site as well as a child from this community will be a wonderful feature in the area.”
Non-tax-deductible donations can be made to the Nigel Rose Weber Memorial Fund at amemorialfornigel.org, though larger tax-deductible donations can be made through the city, according to the fund.
A dedication ceremony is scheduled tentatively for Aug. 4 and will include representatives from Grand Ronde arriving by traditional canoe. Additionally, the observance will include traditional native ceremonies and songs.
According to a fundraising sheet about the project, “Also honored will be the connection between humans and the Earth and nature, which is appropriate as Nigel was a great lover of nature.”