Spray park

When the West Kelso spray park opens for Memorial Day weekend, volunteers will have completed improvements including adding three large light poles, cleaning grimy surfaces and refinishing the park’s paved areas with new, non-slip paint.

Bill Wagner, Daily News File photo

The City of Kelso and local volunteer groups are moving forward with plans to improve the well-loved and much-disputed Catlin Rotary Spray Park.

While a group of community members has called for a fence around the park off Washington Way at Twin City Center, the first changes visitors see this summer will be smaller. Longview and Kelso rotary clubs have teamed up to install lighting and to clean and repaint park surfaces before the park’s Memorial Day opening this year.

Some community members want the park surrounded completely on all sides by a fence with gates that would lock at night. Calls for a fence arose after 6-year-old Charlee Moore stepped on a hypodermic needle at the park during the summer of 2015. Some argued that a fence would help keep out vagrants and animals that would leave trash and waste behind.

For the long term, the City of Kelso has contracted with civil and structural engineers Harper Houf Peterson Righellis Inc. to update the city’s Park Master Plan and create an entirely separate plan just for the spray park.

When creating this year’s budget, the City of Kelso set aside up to $75,000 for updating its parks master plan. On April 4, the city approved a $72,400 contract with Harper Houf that includes a detailed cost analysis. Part of that contract includes $21,290 for the creation of a master plan for the spray park and adjoining senior center.

The city hasn’t committed to the idea of fencing off the park.

“There is a difference in opinion on whether to gate off that area or not,” City Manager Steve Taylor told the City Council. This would be addressed in the planning process by the engineering firm, Taylor said.

In the meantime, local rotary clubs will install three, 18-foot light poles to help illuminate the park. They’ll also pressure wash the paved surfaces and repaint them with a non-slip paint, according to local architect and Rotary member Craig Collins.

“Our goal is to maintain (the park) and keep it nice, clean, vibrant and functional,” Collins said.

Camella Sutton, a member of Kelso Rotary and one of the most vocal supporters of fencing off the spray park, said there’s a lot more to do.

First, she wants to staff the senior center’s adjoining snack bar every afternoon with members of local service clubs. In her attempt to involve everyone in the spray park’s future, Sutton recently joined the center’s board of directors.

For the snack bar, Sutton said the senior center will provide all of the merchandise and snacks, and any service club that wants to come in and provide staffing will keep 50 percent of the profits.

Sutton also said that there are still bare patches of earth where grass should be, and there is a need for more shade, picnic tables and additional landscaping.

Sutton also conducted a Facebook poll in a spray-park-related Facebook group with nearly 200 members. She asked members what improvement the park needed most.

More than 70 people said a fence should be the top priority. Eighteen said would most like picnic tables, while several others stated that improved landscaping and shade structures should come first.

The engineering firm will meet with the city’s Park Board at 5 p.m. Thursday in Kelso City Council chambers, 203 S. Pacific Ave. Sutton said she will be there, and she is encouraging those who want the fence to submit their comments and attend the meeting.

“If they want a fence, they have to show up and say so,” Sutton said.

Contact Daily News reporter Madelyn Reese at 360-577-2523

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