Medford officials continue push for water park

Making the case for a water park in Medford, city officials have released a fact sheet they say answers concerns and misinformation about a project that could cost $14 million.

In a question-and-answer sheet (available at, the city has responded to 23 of the most commonly asked questions about the facility that may be built on the southeast corner of Bear Creek Park.

The answer sheet was prepared by the city Parks and Recreation Department and Ogden Roemer Wilkerson Architecture.

The city would primarily pay for the water park by using revenues to pay off loans and for operating expenses, according to the question-and-answer sheet.

The Q&A also informs readers that the water park is no longer being called a water park by city officials. Now they prefer the term "aquatics facility" because, they say, "water park" refers to a commercial venture.

There are seven proposals for the park, including everything from an eight-lane competition swimming pool to family beach areas, splash pads, a wave machine, tube and drop water slides, mat racers, smaller areas for swim lessons, large shade structures and parking for up to 500.

The water park is proposed for Bear Creek Park on land that currently holds a dog park and BMX track. The fact sheet says a replacement dog park could be built in Hawthorne Park and would be larger and feature separate areas for large and small dogs.

The Q&A acknowledges that some water parks in Nevada have closed down, but says those parks were commercial ventures that required higher profit margins and had higher land acquisition costs and high liability. According to the city, the aquatics park would be covered under a $25,000 liability policy.

Fees to use the water park haven't been established, but the price range in the West ranges from as little as $5 to as much as $19 for the Waterworks Park in Redding.

Ken Ogden, a senior partner with Ogden Roemer, said the intent is to keep the ticket prices low in Medford, comparable to the cost of a movie ticket.

Ogden and Brian Sjothun, director of Parks and Recreation, have taken the lead in answering questions about the proposed project.

"A few of the naysayers were basing their information on misinformation," Ogden said.

Based on comments on a water park's Facebook page, Ogden said most people prefer a wave pool to a slow-moving "lazy river," which should influence the final design.

None of the seven proposals has been designated as a preferred option, he said.

Medford resident Curt Ankerberg is among those who have criticized the water park idea. After reading the question and answer sheet, he said it didn't change his mind.

"Basically, it's spin," he said. "It's PR to promote the project."

Ankerberg said that contrary to comments from the city's Parks and Recreation Department, the project could use tax dollars to pay off the construction loan.

Specifically, he cites this passage from the city's question and answer document: "There is a possibility that tax dollars could be used for debt service payments from the subsidy currently used to operate existing municipal pool(s)."

The city's two pools are subsidized by about $250,000 annually. The city has said creating the water park would not increase the subsidy beyond the $250,000, but the pool in Hawthorne Park would be closed rather than undergoing major rehabilitation.

Ankerberg, who had many criticisms of the question and answer sheet, said he objected to the assumption that Medford needs the facility.

"Brian Sjothun knows for a fact that if this went before the citizens of Medford, it would get rejected," Ankerberg said. "In fact, there is no demand for the water park."

But Ogden noted that the water park's Facebook page has received 3,400 responses, with 98 percent in favor of the project. He said most of the responses have been from mothers, followed by teens.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail

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