TONASKET – A sun-kissed spring afternoon, a common cause for the community to rally around, and the seemingly bottomless pool of ingenuity offered by Linda Black and her team of energetic volunteers turned the Big Splash BBQ into a memorable day in Tonasket.
The community party, which drew around 500 people to Founders Day Park, was set up as a fundraiser for the Tonasket Water Ranch spray park project, which Black has spearheaded both as an enhancement to the community and a bridge to give area kids a summertime activity until the condemned city pool can be replaced, which is a years-long proposition.
Black hopes the spray park can be built this summer.
“It was a really good community feeling,” she said. “It was great to see so many young families and kids.”
While there was plenty of food on hand, the park was filled with activity. Quill and Barley Hyde’s A Cavallo (mobile carousel creation) served both backdrop and stage for musical entertainment. Julie Ashmore and the group SPARoW (Steve Sher, Leaha Passaro, Tim Alley, Mariliz Romano and Doug Wilson) provided the music for about three hours.
Bud McSpadden emceed the event, asking for donations for the water park and engaging in good-natured mockery with “victims” that agreed to take a dive in the dunk tank.
Tonasket Mayor Patrick Plumb, who has advocated for both the spray park and swimming pool, was predictably in the middle of much of the action.
“It was one of the greatest things I have participated in as Mayor,” he said. “As the Tonasket Tiger mascot can attest, it may have been so much fun that it should have been illegal.”
Kiddie pools and spray guns kept the younger portion of the crowd (as well as the mayor) busy, though things really got wet in the aftermath of a number of Tug o’ War contest, which culminated in the watering down of contestants with a fire hose (including Plumb, who two months ago had a similar encounter with the fire department).
“It was fun to see what a little bit of water can do,” Black said. “It doesn’t take much.
“The great thing was seeing how diverse the crowd was. There were a lot of people there that you never see at the same event.”
Black estimated that the barbecue profited around $5,000, though the exact amount has yet to be determined. So far the spray park crew has raised about $87,000. She’s hoping for a couple of larger donations to help get closer to the $200-250,000 goal, but said that a lot of the fundraising will need to come from smaller donations.
“It really boils down to each individual making efforts to support the greater good and allow themselves to have fun in the process,” Plumb said. “To each person that has donated in the boxes, participated in this weekend’s events, or simply promoted us on social networking, I salute you.”
Some of the costs are still fluid, Black said (no pun intended), depending on the results of the permitting process and how much in terms of labor and materials are donated.
Plumb said he was looking forward to the spray park’s completion.
“Thanks to the leadership of Linda Black and Elise Peacemaker, I really think this effort is going to pay off in another great resource for our community’s youth,” he said. “Much like what we witnessed with Georgine Epley and a determined group of bikers, boarders and bladers, we will have another tremendous asset to our area.
“It is community leaders such as these that make living in an arid desert environment second to none, and now we are going to have our own oasis of kids activities at Chief Tonasket Park. The efforts of our Tonasket City staff should also be recognized. They have been steadfast in their resolve to make sure they are helpful to this process. They keep our ideas coordinated, accountable, and accomplishable.”
Black’s biggest push is for donors to buy a fish – part of the part decor, which will include the donors’ names on them. Those cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000, depending on the size of the fish and number of names to be included.
“I think Sunday showed that people do want this,” Black said. “But now it’s time to buck up and buy a fish.”
Sidebar: What about the swimming pool?
TONASKET - As much time and energy as the spray park project has consumed, it does highlight the magnitude of what it will take to get a swimming pool funded and built to replace the city pool that was condemned two years ago.
It isn’t just the price tag of building it (likely upwards of $2 million), but the costs associated with running and maintaining a pool, which will not be a major factor when it comes to the spray park.
“I think we are going to have an immense challenge in front of us to get working on a community swimming pool,” said Tonasket Mayor Patrick Plumb. “I have faith that this community can step up and assist us with this project. If we address this issue with the same energy and turnout as the Big Splash BBQ, we can accomplish this project too.”
Part of the issue with the swimming pool is that because of the money required both to build and maintain it, it needs to be supported by more than just the city. The Tonasket City Council has encouraged community groups to form that would draw from a wider coalition of interests than just the city residents, since the pool would benefit the whole of the north county and would need to draw resources from the whole area to become a reality.
Plumb said that the pool, spray park and similar projects should be a factor for candidates in this fall’s election. The mayor and four of the five city council members will be on the ballot.
“Any people that are going to be running for office this fall should be asked how they are going to contribute to our kids,” Plumb said. “And if running for office is not your style, could you help us with a few weekends? How can you help an organization that you are a member of to direct their energies to helping out our pool project?”
The mayor said he hoped for more participation in local civic groups that could contribute to getting those types of projects off the ground.
“I know we have professionals in this area at the school, the forest service, the hospital, and in the retail services businesses that are great at what they do.,” he said. “These groups need to strongly consider volunteering to help. When you contribute to a club, group, organization, or association, you can see something tangible be created. Community leaders in the past worked hard to give you what we inherited today. Can you pass along the favor?”