Re-Creating Recreation: Children’s Park reopens Sept. 22, HR Aquatic Center back on line Monday

PUBLIC WORKS’ James Farring, left, and Kelby Johnson assemble monkey bars in preparation for Sept. 22’s opening.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
PUBLIC WORKS’ James Farring, left, and Kelby Johnson assemble monkey bars in preparation for Sept. 22’s opening.



Two of Hood River’s prime recreation spots will re-open next week.

The City of Hood River announces the reopening of the completely rebuilt Children’s Park at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22 and the Hood River Aquatic Center reopens Monday after its annual 12-day “shut-down” for maintenance.

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Pool employees Mitchell Lamer, left, and Kevin Payne ready the last roof panel Thursday.

“Everybody’s working hard to do what’s needed to keep this old girl running,” Aquatic Center Director Mike Howard said. “She is a labor of love, but everybody in the community loves her.” That’s everyone from lap swimmers to kids looking to jump and splash, to water polo athletes, who have had to practice for the past two weeks in the Columbia River.

Howard became aquatic director in early 2018, succeeding Marcy Wiley, who is now assistant director of Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District, which manages the Aquatic Center and the pool that every year seems to be on its last legs. This year, again, the Parks and Recreation District figured out ways to patch it together and keep it operating. (The district is in the process of developing a future proposal to rebuild the pool, by way of a capital construction bond request to voters.)

Each September, right after Labor Day, the pool is drained and cleaned. Over the past two weeks, the repeatedly-repaired plumbing and roof systems got the necessary love and care, and all systems will be go for regular operations on Monday.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Wiley directed an all-too-familiar process, the reinstallation of the canvas roof panels that are taken off the structure at the start of the summer, and laboriously replaced each “shut down.” In a process that involves between five and 10 people over two days, “Kieter lines” on the edge of 10-foot-wide, 200-foot-long cloth strips are threaded into rafter rails and the sheets are pulled up and over the arcing roof line, using some lubricant spray, elbow grease and a parks and rec district pickup, then winched tight and bolted at the ends to keep them in place for another nine months. For the fourth year, employee Kaleb Apland scaled the arcing rafters to string the rope that would connect to the canvas strips.

The roof re-installation is a process done since 1996 on a system that was designed to last about 15 years; district officials have said the oft-patched roof and failing and insufficient plumbing systems cannot be sustained indefinitely and the facility will need to be closed or replaced.

“The facility is failing,” Wiley said Thursday during a tour of the pool, which saw major damage to the heavily-patched west wall. That wall directly faces the Gorge’s famous stiff winds and in addition to the myriad patches there, a break occurred this summer in a seam between sections of the four-foot-diameter heating-ventilation duct that serves the entire facility. Wiley said she does not know how the break occurred, and that it was discovered the first day of the shut-down, Sept. 4.

A metal band had to be strapped around the duct to reconnect the two sections, and while crews were at it, they replaced the series of clasps holding the vertical seams in the canvas wall and reinforced them with a vertical patch.

Children’s Park is back

The reopening of the 25-year-old Children’s Park will be celebrated Sept. 22 with a ribbon cutting and community festivities from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., complete with live music, activities and food for purchase.

Samba Hood Rio will perform at the celebration and developing plans should include one or more food trucks plus children’s activities.

After a extensive community effort to design and rebuild Children’s Park, followed by the installation of soft surfacing, the opening was postponed due to delayed shipments of materials necessary to complete the park for safe use. Although the committee and city await a few remaining installments for 100 percent completion of the new park, it is very close and deemed safe and ready for play.

Many elements that should have arrived by the June community build dates were delayed by the manufacturers. Some manufacturers shared information on the cause for delays, while in other cases the causes are unknown, the city stated in a press release.

“The silver lining is that our public works staff have made the best of the situation by adding more enhancements to the park,” City Councilor Megan Saunders explained. “While it has been a bummer to all of us on the committee to see the opening delayed, we are pleased that more progress has been made that will make a difference in the long-term.” The opening setbacks allowed City Public Works staff to complete concrete work to repair the damaged sidewalk around the play area, shore up the hillside to reduce erosion, and clean and repaint the parking lot.

“This has been an immense project that has not only seen large investments from city resources, but also in time, talent, materials and funds in a grand-scale community endeavor,” said Director of Public Works Mark Lago. “We are all eager to celebrate the effort, and to soon incorporate remaining pieces into the park as they arrive.” A significant remaining item from the original design is the hill slide.



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