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Parks and Recreation District keeping hands dirty

By ADAM LAPIERRE

News staff writer

June 3, 2006

This summer marks the tenth anniversary of the Hood River Rotary Skate Park.

What started with a couple vert ramps and some concrete developed over the years into today’s multi-use park that includes a variety of both old-school pool style features and a longboarding hill and new-school street skating rails, fun boxes, ramps and whole lot more concrete. Recent additions to the park, which have been completed this year, include sidewalks, permanent restrooms, a staircase feature, a new concrete fun box and an 800-foot dirt BMX course. A company called Benchmark Skate Designs did the layout and concrete work for the newest features.

“Things are coming along for the park,” said Lori Stirn, district director for the Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District. “It’s such a beautiful area down there, with a lot of shade, a creek and some nice big trees. And it serves such a diverse population of people who use it. We see the park as a true benefit to the community.”

Recent additions to the park (excluding the BMX course) came after the HRVPRD received a $82,029 matching-grant last August from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The money was used to help complete phase three of the park’s ultimate four-phase plan. According to Stirn, phase three projects are designed to help make the park more appealing and user-friendly for a variety of user groups. The final phase will revert back to adding and improving skating features within the park.

The first priority was installing a permanent restroom, which was installed in November. Sidewalks and concrete features at the east end of the skate park soon followed. Although ripper-ready, the BMX course won’t open officially until a signage and a permanent irrigation system are installed.

A couple of additions are in the park’s plans for the near future. The first is a play area with some playground features for young kids to enjoy, which Stirn says will hopefully be installed by mid-summer. A plan is also in the works to return the small wood vert ramp to the individual who originally donated it to the park. It will, when funds can be raised, be replaced by a 5-7-9 concrete bowl.

The disc golf course

Major plans are also in the works for the piece of property across Wasco Street from the skate park. A nine-hole disc golf course will hopefully be in place and ready to use before the fall. Perhaps the biggest obstacle in creating the park, other than the approval through local governments, has been dealing with large amounts of Scotch broom, poison oak and Himalayan blackberries that took over the area.

“We have a restoration plan for the land there,” said HRVPRD Assistant Director Scott Baker. “We’re basically removing the invasive species and noxious weeds and are going to replace them with native plants. Things are definitely moving forward, but at their own pace so it’s difficult to give a timeline as to when it will be complete. At this point there are no obstacles, so it’s just a matter of working the plan. If things move along at a good pace we can potentially get playing by the end of the summer.”

The removal of the underbrush is nearly completed; done with what is essentially a massive bio-diesel fueled brush mower. Local firefighters helped this week with the project by falling snags and “widow-makers” that would pose safety hazards for course users.

As anyone who has lived in the Gorge long enough can attest, getting rid of plants like poison oak and blackberries permanently is almost impossible, especially in wooded areas.

“Our plan is not to create an open, grassy course,” Baker said. “It’s always going to be in a wild, rough and more natural state. And that is what we want.”

Currently the HRVPRD is looking for sponsors for the course’s nine holes. Sponsorship involves a donation of $500 for the first year and a commitment of either 10 hours of maintenance or $100 for each year following. In return, sponsoring businesses or individuals get a logo placed on the tee-off sign at the beginning of their sponsored hole.

Interested sponsors can call Baker at 386-1303.

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