With the help of a $20,000 donation from St. Charles, a shade cover is being installed over the Pioneer Park playground

by: RON HALVORSON - Posts are set to hold the new sun shade going up over the children's playground at Pioneer Park.

An ancient Lombardy poplar — a relic of Prineville’s past — stands guard in Prineville's Pioneer Park.

However, even though it’s a tall tree, it casts little shade on the adjacent children’s play area — a fenced development constructed five years ago courtesy of the local Kiwanis Club. The play area reaps a bountiful harvest of Central Oregon’s famous sunshine nearly year-round, so much so during the summer months that its artificial turf is uncomfortably hot to tender little feet — not to mention the high level of UV radiation the toddlers are exposed to.

All that will change for next year, thanks to this week’s installation of the supports for a shade cover.

“This is a long-needed cover for that playground,” said Forest Carbaugh, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Prineville. “It’s long overdue.”

Carbaugh is in the unique position of being both a Kiwanis Club member and a director for the Crook County Parks and Recreation District (CCPRD), which allows him to act as liaison between the two. He said a shade cover had been planned from the beginning, but was cost prohibitive.

“It’s just been waiting to get the cover on it,” he said, “because of the expense. We weren’t able to get grants, and then St. Charles stepped up here this last spring.”

According to a story published in the Central Oregonian last January, St. Charles Health System was alerted to the financial need by Bob Gomes, CEO for the Prineville and Redmond hospitals, who is also a Kiwanis member. As a result, St. Charles donated more than $20,000 to the cause as part of its “Protect” campaign — an effort to promote awareness of harmful UV rays.

“That was a very generous donation,” acknowledged Carbaugh.

The shade cover was purchased from Shade Systems, in Ocala, Fla., for just under $20,000, he said, and consists of three “sails” — two blue and one gold — held tight between five support poles about 13 feet in height.

It will be an attractive addition to the park, according to CCPRD’s Jeanne Searcy.

“I’ve seen them in places,” she said. “They’re just so pretty. They just give a neat effect.”

The sails will be as easy to install and remove as they are attractive.

“Easily — with equipment — we’ll be able to take them down seasonally, and get extended wear out of them,” Carbaugh explained. “Put them up when it gets warm and take them down when it gets cold. It should work out very well. It’s a fairly simple process.”

Not so simple was the installation of the pole supports, which was “more extensive than originally anticipated,” he said, and may cost as much as $6,000, depending on the level of contribution from the participating contractors.

The first step — the excavation of five holes, each up to eight feet deep — began on Monday, with the arrival of a 40-inch diameter, truck-mounted auger belonging to Ben Woodward. Woodward donated his time and only “charged a little bit,” according to project supervisor Gordon Sproul, of SMAF Construction. However, the start date came as a bit of a surprise.

“I didn’t want to do it right away,” Sproul said. “We wanted to wait a little while because my concrete guy wasn’t ready. But he (Woodward) said ‘Well, I’ve got to do it tomorrow, Gordon.’ So I said, ‘We’ll see you tomorrow.’”

The auger, it turned out, had been sold, and was on its way to Chicago, Ill. It was auger on Monday or not at all.

It became a time of celebration for Sproul.

“No water (in the holes), which is the best part about the whole thing,” he said. “The water table’s about four feet. I expected mud to be coming out. It’s dry as a bone.”

Tuesday saw the installation of a rebar “cage” in each hole, anchored by a base layer of concrete. Sproul explained that the structure was designed to be installed in sand, and that this step insured a stable support for each pole.

On Wednesday, each pole was carefully set in its respective place, plumbed, and temporarily supported with 2x6 lumber, prior to the hole being filled with concrete. Each hole contained about three-and-a-half yards of concrete, according to contractor Tim Carter.

The temporary barrier fence placed prior to construction will remain in place for about two weeks, said Sproul, rendering the play area unusable during that time. And it will be a month before the concrete has cured enough to mount the shade sails on the poles, he added.

“It’s just a lot of pole and a lot of concrete,” he said. “It’s recommended 28 days cured time. It’s not the connection, it’s the wind.” Any motion before the concrete is cured would cause the poles to shake loose, he explained, and allow for unacceptable wobble.

Once the concrete’s cured, look for a short public appearance by the shade sails before the weather turns. There will be a dedication ceremony at some point as well, said Carbaugh.

Sproul was quick to praise the generosity of the local business community.

“It’s a nice community effort. We’ve got Parks and Rec, we have Tim Carter Concrete, we have ABC Fencing, we have Prineville Sand and Gravel, and of course, SMAF Construction. Most people are donating a good portion of their time and effort into it.”

He even got a police escort, he said, to help deliver the materials to the job site.

“It’s going to be nice.”

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