Bright balloons whipped in the wind Saturday for the swan song for the 26-year-old Children’s Park play structure.
About 400 people attended the “Park Enhancement Project (P.E.P.) Rally” at the park at Ninth and Eugene streets. The event raised $40,000 toward the community project, for which $160,000 in community funds are needed to go with the $300,000 the City of Hood River has budgeted.
The structure is failing and will be removed starting next week, to make way for an expanded one designed to last at least as long.
Saturday was a day of music, food, balloons, face-painting, and a “scavenger hunt” style game that took kids into the nooks and crannies of the park. Several hundred people attended, mainly between the event opening at 10 a.m. and about 2 p.m. when the rains set it in.
“We wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to give it an official goodbye rather than just have the fence go up,” project committee member Jace Castello said, referring the surprise temporary closure of the structure in spring 2017. City officials had then found parts of the structure were rotting and closed it in order to remove portions before reopening last May. A structural study showed the city that the overall condition of the structure meant it needed to go.
The play structure will come down and all of the park — playfield, parking lot, restrooms, and covered structure — will be closed as it will be needed for mobilization by the contractor, Play By Design.
The new structure will be installed in the first week of June, and 240 volunteers will be needed each day.
“It’s near and dear,” Castello said. “I’ve heard nothing but exciting things from people who were involved in the last build” in 1992.
“We’ve been here every day for the past 13 years or so it seems,” said Castello. He and his wife, Cynthia, run an afterschool program across the street.
The new structure, designed by Play By Design, followed a community design-build process, and will be by and large ADA-accessible, with over 50 total play elements. The play area footprint will be increased by 3,000 square-feet over the original park.
To stay up-to-date on park projects, sign up for the Children’s Park or city public works email lists at ci.hood-river.or.us/connect.
In the 1992 creation of the park, Hanel Mill donated the wood. Many of those pieces of wood will be cut up into sawhorses — 35 or so — for use in building the new project.
“It was really wonderful when we built it, people who didn’t get along were working together,” recalled Kym Zanmiller, who along with her husband, Mark, helped lead the effort in 1992, when they had two young daughters. “And they came out and the fact that it’s getting built again I’m happy about. We have a new leadership group, because all of us are getting old.” The Zanmillers were there to answer questions and sign people up to help in June and to purchase personalized name boards, which will be placed on the new structure, just as with the old. The existing donor boards will be used in an art project at the basketball shelter, according to Public Works Director Mark Lago. (They will also be made available should donors want to take them home.)
Castello said the $100,000 in community funds will cover everything except the soft artificial “pour and play” surface; another $60,000 is needed for that. (Conventional bark dust would be used as a fall surface.)
“The money is one thing, but it’s also about getting excitement for people to build it because we need 240 people a day to get it build,” Castello said. “It’s quite a process. But for such a good cause. Who doesn’t like a park?
“We’ll thoroughly miss this one, but the new one will have a similar esthetic and a lot of similar play features plus more,” Castello said. “I think it will be a destination for a lot of people, especially or little ones, for a place to play.”
He said the new structure will have “vastly improved accessibility,” with features designed for differently-abled people, including a merry-go-round you can roll onto at ground level in a wheelchair.
“It will have more ramps and more width, so people can get up on the structure,” he said.