Big Build: Children’s Park community effort is something to be proud of

The fun is not quite over, but what a week it was in the “Big Build” of the Hood River Children’s Park play structure.

The 200-plus people who spent time, some of them every day, helping with the project, deserve a big thank-you from the community. (See pages B1, B5 and B10 for photos and coverage of the June 4-10 project.)

Builders and others took time off from their jobs to give guidance and grunt work, people spent what amounted to their weekends or evenings devoted to the project and students gave up afternoons. People from Stevenson to The Dalles came and helped out. These are just a few examples of the deep and wide-ranging levels of service given in the interest of the park.

The reality is that the park is 85 percent complete, slightly less than organizers had hoped by week’s end. Another three-day push will be needed soon, with designer Play By Design back in town again, but that has not been scheduled. Also, the grand re-opening of the park is likely pushed back into sometime in July.

Those who volunteered described the work as hard, but fun, and many of those folks will surely be back to help finish the project. But it provides an opportunity for any of us who did not get a chance to haul boards, cut and connect them, or any of the myriad tasks involved in this impressive project, to get in on the last phase.

The Children’s Park build was long-awaited after an equally generous community fundraising effort. It was part barn-raising and part bee-hive in terms of the goodwill and community dedication at work. The way people have rallied around the project by giving financially or by sweat equity, is a testament to what this community can do, and often does.

“It’s Hood River. It’s Hood River,” said builder and project volunteer Tom Modrich at Monday’s City Council meeting, where City Council Member and project liaison Megan Saunders was recognized for her efforts, as were city staff including Public Works Director Mark Lago and foreman Travis Pease.

Part of the beauty of the expanded park play structure is that is resembles the former structure in general appearance, but is larger and provides new and safer surfaces as well as more of them. Just wait until kids, and their parents, get to try the added slides and other features that provide fun as well as exercise and a place for families to be together.

Saunders had this to say: “All of the community volunteers who have come out for the project have been absolutely amazing. The work they have done is incredible. And it continues to be such fun to see everyone working together to create our beautiful park.”

And the words of builder Don Wanzek speak to the way the project connected people across many walks of life: “It’s been fun, great working with all these local people, putting names with faces.”

Mark Zanmiller, who with his wife, Kym, were actively involved in the first community build in 1992 and again this year, noted that the same sharing spirit prevailed with the 2018 “Big Build.”

With that, we anticipate an exciting feature of the reborn park, a new mural created by children under the guidance of MacRae Wylde and Arts in Education in the Gorge. It will go up after improvements are completed to the Rotary Club-sponsored Gibson basketball play structure, next to the playground, where the mural will be installed.

See the June 16 edition for more photos of the mural, a 10-by-20-foot work that features kids’ painting of the older structure, overlain with the actual name pickets from the original structure. These are the last vestiges of the original structure, and serve as a bridge, a physical symbol that will stand for years overlooking the new park.

Both old and new serve as reminders of what this community is capable of doing when it works together.

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