Children’s Park Rebuild a success
At times the Children’s Park Rebuild project, for the most part driven by volunteers, seemed monumental and improbable. Today, a new, larger, safer, more accessible Children’s Park, the result of a grand-scale community effort to rebuild a 25-year-old public gem, awaits a few final installations for a yet to be determined late summer opening date.
The new Children’s Park is increased 3,000 square feet in size compared to the original design, offers over 50 play elements and includes two age-appropriate play structures. It also offers increased ADA-compliance and wheelchair accessibility, and its construction with plastic materials should result in improved longevity.
The City of Hood River and Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District (HRVPRD) contributed $150,000 each to the project, with HRVPRD dedicating System Development Charges (SDC) assessed to offset development impact on infrastructure. Fundraising filled the gap with approximately $135,000 in donations raised prior to Children’s Park Build Week.
Over 400 volunteers contributed to build week and build days held in June, guided by park design leaders. Community participation included donations of catered meals for volunteers and loans of tools. “We are grateful for the generous donations of time, expertise, funds, materials, and tools,” expressed City Councilor Megan Saunders, who was highly involved in the project. “Significant donations will be recognized on a plaque placed at the new play structure, but so many individuals, businesses and organizations contributed, it’s impossible to capture everyone.”
Nationally-renowned park designer Play By Design was hired to guide the community design process. It included work sessions with Hood River elementary students whose ideas and drawings were incorporated into the final play structure design while maintaining architectural characteristics inspired from the original Children’s Park.
A future feature of the revitalized park will be a new mural utilizing donor pickets from the original Children’s Park, created by community children under the guidance of local teaching artist MacRae Wylde and Arts in Education of the Gorge. Mural installation will occur after the renovation of the Rotary Club-sponsored Gibson basketball structure.
Children’s Park was originally built in 1993, also a major feat of community fundraising plus time and materials donations, and was declared in Spring 2017 to have reached the end of its safe and useful life. The planning process for a new park was guided by a steering committee made of up representatives from the City of Hood River, Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District, Hood River Rotary, Livable Hood River, Mid-Columbia Association of Realtors, The Next Door, and other involved community members.
It’s hard to imagine the year-long effort to plan and rebuild Children’s Park will fade in memories, but it’s virtually certain residents and visitors in Hood River will gain experiences, enjoyment and appreciation from the new Children’s Park for decades to come.
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