Despite delays, fountain designed by world-renowned Michael Curry promises to be worth the wait

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: DARRYL SWAN - Construction of the Scappoose Rotary Fountain is ongoing. Concrete staining planned this week was delayed due to ash fall from the Eagle Creek Fire. Organizers expect construction activity to pick up over the next few weeks, with completion in October. Scappoose residents are on the cusp of owning a genuine community treasure:

a one-of-a-kind Michael

Curry-designed splash fountain.

After more than seven years of planning, seeking donations, working with volunteer labor, fundraising and grant-writing, the Scappoose Rotary Fountain will be done this year. Warren resident Gary Liao, who conceived the fountain project when he was president of the Columbia County Rotary Club in 2009 and has been instrumental in wrangling together resources to make it happen, is emphatic on that point.

"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!" Liao responded when asked if the fountain, which has had numerous revised completion dates since it was first announced in 2010, would be done before Jan. 1. "I have a high confidence it will be done in October. I don't know when, but I hope it's done in October."

COURTESY OF ROTARY CLUB OF COLUMBIA COUNTY - An artistic rendering of the Scappoose Rotary Fountain now under construction in Heritage Park. The main stem will resemble a tree and the fountain will have pull and button systems to activate lights and sound. Though the worksite in Heritage Park currently doesn't look like much — tiered concrete centered by a surface-level blue Rotary wheel — most of the fountain's parts are ready to be installed. Two pedestals, one with an activation button and another that names project donors, are being ordered, Liao said.

"Probably after two weeks we'll start seeing stuff go into place," Liao said.

Ash fall from the Eagle Creek Fire delayed concrete staining expected to occur earlier this week, he added.

The fountain is a partnership project between the Columbia County Rotary Club and the city, and is meant as a place for kids to play and learn about the positive values espoused by Rotary International. Liao coordinated with world-renowned puppeteer and artist Michael Curry for design services in 2010.

The portfolio for Michael Curry Design, based in Scappoose, contains a who's who in entertainment, including Broadway performances of Disney productions, Super Bowl half-time shows featuring Madonna, Cirque du Soleil, and concert designs for the likes of Lady Gaga, Cher and Katy Perry, to name just a few.

While Liao does not want to set expectations too high, it's safe to say it will not be like just any old splash fountain. Curry and his design team have full artistic control, from lighting and sound effects to colors.

"Michael Curry does a lot of stuff with Disney and lights and color — he knows specific things about how light is

projected onto water," Liao said.

At this point, neither Liao nor city officials know exactly what to expect. A response from Michael Curry Design is enticing, but thin on details.

"This wonderful piece of art will provide countless hours of enjoyment for all who visit the newly revamped Heritage Park, and bring a much needed new level of art to our local public spaces," stated Jeff Curry, of Michael Curry Design, in an emailed statement to the Spotlight. "This piece will truly be a multimedia event with water, sound and lighting all combined to entertain one and


"I guess we'll all find out together," said Scappoose City Manager Michael Sykes when asked about the fountain's specifics.

The city initially allocated $40,000 toward the fountain with the understanding most of the parts and labor would be donated. Over time that figure inched skyward, with Sykes now estimating the city has spent around $70,000, plus another $130,000 in in-kind investment for staff time.

Michael Curry Design provided all design services for free, and much of the labor was donated by the Northwest College of Construction. Many local businesses provided goods and services toward the fountain.

There is a bright side to the delays, which occurred primarily due to funding limitations and availability of volunteer labor, Liao said. With sufficient work remaining, the city in 2015 was able to use the value of outstanding labor and other contributions as matching funds to receive an $180,000 state grant for improvements to Heritage Park, including irrigation, a play structure and fencing.

"It really is special," Liao said of the fountain. "I don't think anyone else has one."

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