Community members propose inflatable aquapark

Father-son duo, Jerry, left, and Alex Thon, brought their proposal for a seasonal aquapark before the port commission.

Photo by Emily Fitzgerald
Father-son duo, Jerry, left, and Alex Thon, brought their proposal for a seasonal aquapark before the port commission.


An example inflatable aquapark that the Thons showed in their presentation to the port commission.

Father-and-son duo Jerry and Alex Thon went before the port commission earlier this week to present their idea for a seasonal aquapark in Nichols Basin.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be there, but we did find that it is the best place,” said Jerry during the public comment session of the port commission’s Jan. 8 meeting.

The idea behind the aquapark is to create something that waterfront users of all ages and skill levels can use, since most of the current activities, such as windsurfing and kiteboarding, require some sort of expertise. “This is an opportunity we think would be quite successful,” Jerry said.

His son, Alex, an avid kiteboarder with a degree in adolescent development, said that he saw aquaparks like this throughout the U.K. while he was visiting and thought it would work well here.

“I’ve always been really passionate about working with the community and … building positive community relationships,” Alex said.

The type of aquapark the Thons recommended is a series of inflatable slides, runways, ladders, trampolines and other obstacles connected together as a single large structure and anchored to the riverbed below. “What’s great about this is that it’s all temporary, none of this is permanent,” Alex said. They proposed a model made by Wibit, a German manufacturer that also helps with installation and operational training.

Jerry said that their target year for opening would be spring of 2020.

Scott Reynier, an insurance broker for the Port of Hood River who had a presentation scheduled later in the meeting, mentioned one of his clients: Aquaglide, a Pacific Northwest-based company that also designs this type of aquapark.

Commissioner Brian Shortt said that he had concerns about safety and the port’s potential liability, as well as parking.

“They (aquaparks) are a lot safer than what was initially perceived,” Reynier said, adding that the only two circumstances that have led to injury with Aquaglide in the past were if the aquaparks were installed in too shallow water, or when people were using them at night without supervision.

When asked by the commission what he thought the potential issues were, Jerry said that they would have to look into parking, restrooms and how best to be “courteous to our neighbors.”

He added that they would have to be creative with parking and that partnering with hotels to provide shuttle services could be an option.

“We’re thinking about it, we know it’s an issue,” he said.

When Port Director Michael McElwee asked the commission if they wanted port staff to look further into the Thons’ proposal, Commissioner Ben Sheppard joked, “My kids wouldn’t like me very much if I at least didn’t learn more about it.”

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