Pendleton’s Community Park has mostly recovered since April flooding along McKay Creek put many portions of it underwater.
The bridge that connects the east and west sides of the park has reopened, the tennis courts are cleared and back in service, and a volunteer cleanup day removed enough debris that Pendleton Parks and Recreation staff can start mowing the lawn again.
But the playground at one of the city’s flagship parks remains closed, and it will likely stay closed as staff addresses other renovation projects across the system.
Director Liam Hughes told the Pendleton Parks and Recreation Commission Tuesday that repairing the Community Park playground will be put on hold while it addresses other projects with tighter deadlines.
Hughes said parks staff would spend the ensuing weeks completing play structure replacements and park upgrades at Sherwood Park, Aldrich Park, and May Park. Tasks include finishing bathroom remodel and a disability access point at Sherwood Park, and continuing excavation at May and Aldrich parks before installing the play equipment and pouring concrete around it.
Hughes said parks and recreation staff needs to finish all of these projects soon or they will be forced to return the grant funds they’re using to pay for them.
“It’s unfortunate or else we leave a lot of money on the table,” he said.
Hughes said damage to the playground could have been worse. Although many playgrounds’ footings are installed into cardboard tubes, the Community Park playground’s concrete footings kept the structure from washing away during the flood.
Long-term, Hughes said the city will need to explore moving the playground out of the flood zone, lest it suffer damage again from a future flood. He estimated it would cost $30,000 to move it and would probably need grant funding to get done.
Another option the department is exploring, Hughes said, is working with a program from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Association that would convene experts in Pendleton to teach people how to install playground equipment by moving the Community Park equipment. He estimated this option would cost around $10,000.
When asked by a commissioner whether the playground was insured against flooding, Hughes called it the “$50 million question.”
He added that the city could receive damage reimbursement from its insurance company or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but neither are assured.
Hughes said applying for aid from FEMA is complicated and involves cooperation from Umatilla County, while the payout from the city’s insurance agency might be small because the playground is in a designated floodway.
Other park amenities are returning back to action more quickly. Hughes said the tennis courts were reopened after the Pendleton High School tennis team expressed interest in practicing at the facilities again and the Pendleton Fire Department agreed to help clear debris from the courts.
And Hughes added the city’s public works department is working on ways to restore the banks where McKay Creek intersects with the park.
Amidst all the work that has left to be done, Hughes pledged to get the Community Park playground reopened.
“We will get it done,” he said. “We will get it back into good condition.”