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Metal structures will replace the exercise and stretching equipment currently located along the walking/running path on the south side of Sorosis Park in The Dalles, pictured above. Replacement is anticipated to begin this spring.

The Northern Wasco County Parks and Recreation District (NWCPRD) will be updating programs and parks this spring with new exercise equipment planned at Sorosis Park and a swim pass program for individuals and families on the Oregon Health Plan.

At Sorosis Park, a $34,000 grant awarded to the district last year will help fund two sets of full-body exercise equipment. The grant is part of the Local Government Grant Program through Oregon State Parks. The district applied in Spring of 2018, and it was awarded last fall.

The equipment is a set of hanging or standing bar structures intended for various warm up exercises that don’t require weights. Similar structures of wood and metal bars currently in the park have received heavy use and were in need of replacement.

“We’ve been waiting for an opportune time with the weather to build,” said Scott Baker, executive director of NWCPRD. The district is working with Ziegenhagen Enterprises, a local home builder who donated $4,000 to the project, to find a window of time in March or April to break ground, Baker said. “The equipment is ordered and on its way; it should only take a week or two to be implemented,” he said.

The decision to replace the equipment at Sorosis Park, which Baker says has been there longer than he knows, came as a result of a state-wide announcement that grant priority would be placed on rehabilitation projects.

While The Dalles had a number of qualifying projects, the relative size of this one fit within the small-grant award cap of $75,000 and had a direct benefit to dozens of residents, who frequent the park to work out on the current equipment.

The overall cost of the project is expected to be $57,000, but between the grant and donation, the district is looking at only a $19,000 budget expense.

Swim passes

In addition, the district will be offering hundreds of individuals and families a pathway to swim as part of a referral from their medical provider through the Oregon Health Plan.

The district has made an effort to offer seasonal swim passes to low-income families for years, and ran a program last year called Swim RX that offered discounted passes, Baker said. “We approached PacificSource, a provider here in The Dalles, and worked with them to create a contract where people on the Oregon Health Plan can visit their provider, and if their provider thinks there’s a health benefit for them to swim, they can obtain a swim pass,” said Baker.

An estimated 8,000 people in The Dalles area participate in the Oregon Health Plan and could potentially benefit from this program. The swim season runs from May 27 (Memorial Day) to Sept. 2 (Labor Day), allowing any interested and qualified parties ample opportunity to meet with their provider and inquire about a pass.

“We want the pool to be a central part of the community, available to anyone,” said Baker. “While we keep our prices as low as anywhere in the state, we understand cost is still a barrier for people wanting to swim. Seeing how successful our Swim RX program was, we wanted to find a way to make swim passes available to more people and on a more permanent basis.”

The program has a limited amount of money, however, coming from a fund of $60,000 that is used for other costs as well, said Baker. He estimated there could be as many as 300 swim passes made available this year through this program alone.

All passes are identical regardless of whether they were paid for or not, and the district intends to partially continue their Swim RX program as well. The annual pass for swimmers living within the district is $175.

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