The John Day-Canyon City Parks and Recreation District is seeking 20-30 volunteers for a “community-build” project for a new playground in April.

The district recently was awarded a $243,083 grant from the state Parks and Recreation Department, which will be used to build a new kiddie park, splash pad and exercise stations at the Seventh Street Complex in John Day, executive director Art Thunell told the Eagle.

Kiddie park

Ground preparation near the restrooms on the east end of the complex for the 6,800-square-foot kiddie park will begin in late February and early March, Thunell said.

Parts for the playground have arrived, and the playground designer will be here in April to oversee construction of the kiddie park on April 12-14, he said.

The “community build” will include pouring concrete footings and assembling the playground equipment. Volunteers who can commit to one to three days are asked to apply at the district office at 845 1/2 Bridge Street in John Day.

“We want people to take pride in the construction of this playground,” Thunell said. “We want kids to know their parents had a hand in building it.”

The kiddie park will offer two playground areas, one for ages 2-5 and one for ages 5-12, with swings, tube slides, a climbing wall, platforms, monkey bars and an ADA-compatible swing, program director RC Huerta said.

The playground surface will be a pour-in-place rubber that will resist wear and tear and temperature variations, Thunell said. The thickness of the rubber surface will vary from 2-6 inches depending on the type of playground equipment nearby, he said.

Splash pad

Construction of the seasonal 87-by-37-foot concrete splash pad near the kiddie park is expected to be completed by June. Thunell said similar facilities exist in Redmond and Portland, and the designer modeled the district’s splash pad on one at an Air Force base in Boise.

Splash pad features will include three 7-inch water rings, three bucket dumps, one unit with seven ground sprays, a wildfire hose, a question mark and a hitching post, Huerta said. A water dome in the center will feature a six-foot high mushroom-shaped fountain.

Users will push a pneumatic button to activate the splash pad for several minutes before it automatically shuts off. City water will be used in the various fountains and spray features. The water will not be recycled and will instead drain to a holding pond used for irrigating the complex.

Walking trail

Fifteen exercise stations will be installed along the Jimmy Allen Memorial Walking Trail that circles the sports complex. Just under a mile long, the trail is used by walkers, runners, adults with baby strollers and adults teaching children to ride a bicycle.

The new mountain biking trail on the hill above the sports complex is located on Grant School District 3 property and is not maintained by the recreation district, Thunell said. Bicycles are not allowed on the walking trail.

Signs at each station will explain an exercise. Some stations will feature exercise equipment such as a vault, parallel-bar arm walk, beam walk and hop over. Thunell said the stations will be a nice addition to the trail for all ages.

Installation of the exercise stations could be done by recreation district crews or community volunteers, Thunell said. He said he has spoken with local exercise trainers about the equipment.

The total cost of the three projects is $363,590, leaving a $120,496 match for the state grant. The city of John Day and the recreation district each will put in $50,000, and the remainder of the match will be made up with in-kind donations of labor, equipment and materials, Thunell said. Lisa Weigum wrote the grant application for the district.

Several years ago, the district used a grant to build restrooms at the east end of the sports complex and complete the walking trail.

Staff changes

Huerta became the district’s program director last August. He grew up in Redmond and left the area to play college baseball after graduating from high school in Redmond.

Returning to Redmond, Huerta started a family and took a number of jobs, including assistant superintendent at the Juniper Golf Course for five years. He’s coached basketball and football for middle school, freshmen and junior varsity teams in Redmond and will be the assistant coach for the Prospectors baseball team this year.

Huerta said his grandparents lived in Prairie City, and he visited here often in the summertime. He and his wife have three children in elementary school.

Kimberly Ward has left the district after nine years serving as the office manager and pool manager. Sabrina Howard will be the new pool manager as well as the John Day Swim Team coach.

Richard Hanners is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. He can be contacted at or 541-575-0710.


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