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Founder will move park toys

Kiesling says he was surprised by the flood damage to his big 'Space Net' station

GOLD HILL ' In hindsight, the riverside park founder says maybe he should have listened to the warnings of locals before locating the Kiesling Family Playground in a flood zone along the Rogue River.

They told me not to build here, says Steve Kiesling with rueful laughter. And they were right.

With determined optimism, Kiesling is tackling the aftermath of the Dec. 30 flood, which battered the expensive state-of-the-art play stations Kiesling had installed at Gold Hill's Beach Park.

The riverside family park will remain open, Kiesling vows. The city park will not revert to the trash-filled blackberry bramble it was before Kiesling and crew reclaimed the area for the community in 2004, he says.

The good news is the island we built is still a good place for a smaller swing set, Kiesling says.

— The large Space Net play station will be repaired and moved to a new flood-safe location at the Gold Hill Sports Park, he says.

Public Works Director Royal Gasso says he was one of the people who tried to warn Kiesling that the riverside beach was prone to flooding.

When the area flooded in 1997, Gasso says the city received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to clean up the mess.

We were advised not to put any permanent structures we thought could be damaged, says Gasso.

Kiesling says he now sees the wisdom of that advice. He was on site as the river was rising, leaving only after the water reached the edge of the sandy beach.

The water kept coming and coming, he says. It went up to four feet over the level of the sand.

Kiesling says he figured the play stations could withstand flooding. But he didn't realize the structures would be so badly pummeled by rocks, trees and other fast-running debris.

The Space Net is remarkably strong, says Kiesling. But a one-and-a-half-foot diameter tree got caught in the net and turned sideways.

Once they are repaired, the playground toys ' valued at about &

36;25,000 ' can be placed in a couple of spots at the Sports Park, says Gasso.

Gasso says the Sports Park Master Plan and the City Council will determine the final location. But both sites are near picnic tables where parents can keep a close eye on their children, he says.

Kiesling and Gasso say anyone interested in donating money for repairs can send a check to the Gold Hill City Parks Playground Fund or call City Hall at 855-8525.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail Founder will move park toys"sspecht@mailtribune.com.