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Hood River Lions members work to deconstruct the stage at Jackson Park Friday in the first phase of an improvement project.

Despite the rain, work was underway last Friday morning at the Jackson Park stage.

The Hood River Lions, assisted by a crew from Hood River County Parole and Probation, started the first phase of improvements to the stage on April 5: Removing the foam barrier that mimics rocks on otherwise flat, concrete walls.

The work “went quicker than we thought it would,” said Lion Mike Schend, who is heading the project alongside Lions Stu Watson and Dave Waller. The group dismantled foam that had been glued on the wall in the 1990s — a Hood River Valley High School art project to beautify the stage.

Originally, the students painted petroglyphs on the barrier, but after vandals defaced the stage, it was painted a singular color.

The next step of the process will take place in May, when Schuepbach Custom Builders installs a basalt rock face on the cement walls, held together with anchor bolts.

“This is real rock, not fake,” Schend stressed.

Once the rock is installed, the next step is to pressure wash the stage and then seal the floor to make it waterproof.

Next spring, the club plans to erect a freestanding roof to cover the stage.

“The cover will be nice for those who use it for events like the Fourth of July, and church groups, school groups and Families in the Park,” he said — especially considering that 20,000 to 30,000 people use Jackson Park each year. It’s also the largest city park, covering an entire block.

Schend called the work the Lions’ “signature project,” paid for with the interest generated by the club’s general fund. “It’s a two-year investment for us,” he said. “It’s the first of its nature that the club has undergone.”

The club has a long history with the park and its stage. In 1984, Hood River Lions donated a concrete pad to the park’s northwest corner, where the stage is currently located. In 1985, Schend, then with Community Education, began to fundraise for a stage.

“We raised $5,600 to build the stage,” he said. “Volunteers made it possible. And the estimated cost to replace it today would be $80,000.”

The Lions contacted the city regarding the improvements to the park stage, said Public Works Director Mark Lago. The removal of the foam barrier is the first step in the project.

“I don’t know how much the foam has contributed to the acoustic sounds … but people have picked at it and have made quite a mess,” Lago said. “They use it as a climbing wall, which is not what it’s there for.”

Schend was asked to be part of this project because of his history with the stage — which was dedicated to him when he retired as Community Education director in 2009.

“I’m happy to be back in it now,” he said. “This was a part of my life.”

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