Adults sawing beams and kids soaping screws were two busy scenes Monday as the Hood River Children’s Park build project got underway.
The shape of the new structure was clear to see Tuesday morning as workers started day two of the effort, but the project embarked June 4 despite doubts, just hours before, that it could proceed as scheduled.
“Things are going well. We could use more people, but the volunteers who are here are great to work with,” said Lee Archin of Play By Design, who designed the play structure complex that replaces the decrepit one torn down earlier this spring.
The project depends on volunteers, and more are needed. Shifts are 8 a.m. to noon, 12:30-4:30 p.m., and 5-8:30 p.m.
On Monday, Public Works Director Mark Lago said a large response of people, and people with tools to loan, made the difference in giving the project a green light.
“As of Friday at 5 p.m. it looked like we were not going to get the park built at this time,” Lago said. “But on Saturday people were here all morning, as well as on Sunday, and then it was a matter of, ‘now we need to organize all these tools.’” Volunteers responded with plenty of objects including tents, saws, and impact drills.
By mid-afternoon Monday, it looked like the project was on schedule, he said.
“We got great response, but we still need 40-50 people more per shift,” said Megan Saunders, City Council Member and liaison on the project. She was donning gloves and heading out to build Monday evening.
Saunders told the Hood River News last week, “The community has pulled together amazingly well to meet our fundraising goal, but we need a huge out-pouring of time and tools to get across the finish line and make this park a reality. I ask everyone in the community to please help.”
Groups ranging from Klein and Associates and Insitu to Hood River Valley High School students lent a hand the first two days, in addition to dozens of individuals.
Leslie Hoover-Lauble and Todd Lauble hauled boards because their grandchildren enjoy the park, and Elizabeth Betts has spent many hours at the old structure with her kids and wanted to be in on getting the new one in place.
Eddie Murillo of The Dalles spent many days as a kid playing at the park, and he devoted his two days off, Monday and Tuesday, to volunteering.
“This place always was so much fun, and it had this great shady vibe, and it was great to play here because it was cool with the breeze and so shady,” Murillo said. “I have great memories. We’d come here as a family and have a picnic and run around on the lawn and play on the (structure).”
All day Monday, the park site was a hive of activity with people carrying, cutting and placing posts, and using electric routers to carve rounded corners onto all the board ends.
“We can’t have any right angles on these corners,” Lago explained.
The first orders of business in the past week were the digging of holes and charting the grid of posts and support “jigs,” along with building dozens of tables and jigsaw supports for the critical measuring and cutting of all those posts, beams, rails, stairs and other elements.
And under cover of the park’s Gibson basketball shelter, dozens of kids came after school and applied Ivory soap to screws.
“It helps them go into the wood better,” said one youngster, though the structure is made of a composite plastic-based lumber and not wood.
The kids stood at a table, dragging the screw threads through chunks of soap and dropping the screws into buckets that adult supervisor Cynthia Castello carried back and forth to the work crews.
However, wooden lumber played a key role Monday in grounding and lining up the posts: Volunteers assembled horizontal jigs to brace the posts as other volunteers firmed them into holes and added dirt and gravel, pounding the ballast into place, prior to the pouring of a final layer of concrete.
Archin, Play By Design co-founder, said that “the great thing about this community is a core group of people who remember doing it the first time,” referring to the first Children’s Park build in 1992.
“I am very impressed with the work force, but need more of them,” he said.
HOW TO HELP
Sign up to help at ci.hood-river.or.us/ChildrensPark, or show up at the work party, scheduled to run through June 10.
Wear gloves and closed-toe shoes. No construction experience is necessary.
The park is located at Ninth and Eugene streets; the entire park remains closed except to people volunteering to work.
Meals are provided between shifts and childcare is available for kids 2-13 years old (kids must be pre-registered for childcare through Hood River Community Education).
For more information, visit cityofhoodriver.com, facebook.com/childrensparkrebuild or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Children’s Park Rebuild is being financed with matching $150,000 contributions from the City of Hood River and Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District.
The remaining $135,000 budget required to build the community-designed park are hoped to be raised by individual and business donations, with close to $100,000 already committed.
The total project cost of $435,000 is based on actual supplier costs and estimates for the final Children’s Park design, including site preparation, materials, playground equipment, freight transport, and incidentals like fencing and recognition plaques.