Hood River community members have banded together to honor the late Steve Gates’ legacy with a remembrance area at Nichols Basin; specifically, at what is now known as Frog Beach.
Gates, a water sports enthusiast and youth mentor who had a significant impact on the Hood River Waterfront’s development, passed away Nov. 20 after a five year battle with cancer. He was 69.
“On Sunday, when we had his memorial down by the river, was the very place were his memorial took place, so it seems like the most fitting spot,” said Scott Reynier, one of three community members who presented architectural plans for different memorial sculpture ideas to the Hood River Port Commission during its Dec. 3 meeting.
Reynier, Jon Davies and Todd Clay are all members of a Friday lunch group that’s met up for the last two years or so. Gates was a regular member, “and when Steve was getting sick and could no longer attend, the group was thinking about what we could do … I think everybody felt very strong that something should be done,” said Davies.
The Port of Hood River contracted Michael Zilis of Walker/Macy Landscape Architects, a Hood River firm that has worked with the port on past projects, to come up with several initial concept sketches for a memorial at Nichols Basin.
“He got these drawings back to us, I think it was two days before Steve passed,” said Reynier, and Gates’ got a chance to look them over. “So, I thought that was pretty special.”
Of the four designs that Zilis developed, there were two the Gates family preferred: A granite seating area “etched with imagery and quotes highlighting Steve’s character and impact he’s had on the community;” and a kinetic sculpture that “interprets the wind’s innate energy into a dynamic form for the community to enjoy. Both designs include plaques inscribed with Gates’ story and his impact on the community.
Several members of the lunch group have committed to doing most of the organizational work to bring this project together, Reynier said, including organizing money, collecting donations and figuring out permit requirements; but the group does not consider itself the “leader” of the project.
“There really is no leader to this effort,” Davies said. “This is a collaborative effort, nothing is set in stone. This has to happen organically.” He added that all parties, including Gates’ family and the Port of Hood River, had to be on the same page for this to work. “I think the group is here to provide the financial backing for it and to kind of put the energy behind it,” he said.
While Commission President John Everitt said he was concerned the project had no leader, he and his fellow commissioners were in strong support of the effort.
“I think it’s a great idea and I think the port should really look into what we can do to support this,” said Commissioner Ben Sheppard.
The port spent $3,000 on the initial contract with Zilas for the concept art, and Port Director Michael McElwee proposed expanding that contract to include the next stage of design. The commission agreed.
While the project will inevitably cost the port money, Davies and Reynier said that the lunch group’s goal is to keep that amount as low as possible.
The Hood River Outrigger Canoe Club agreed to use its status as a 501c3 non-profit to collect donations for the project, Davies said, and the group will focus on organizing money and potentially volunteer work to help with construction.
“We’re in pretty preliminary stages at this point so I don’t want to overcommit to something, but I think it has a fair amount of momentum at this point,” Reynier said.
Before the commission moved on to the next item in their agenda, Reynier asked to make a comment about Gates’ memorial on Sunday; particularly, the sheer size of the group that attended.
“A lot of people spoke that morning about how wonderful our community was, and the reality is that turnout was, yes our community is wonderful, but it was really about how wonderful Steve is or was, and I think this would be a superb, important thing for his family,” he said.