WHITE CITY — A toddler’s feet were badly burned Monday afternoon when she stepped on a hot metal plate during triple-digit temperatures at the water play area of Burns Park on Division Road.
Eagle Point resident Chelsea Welch said her 1-year-old daughter Paislee suffered second-degree burns to the bottoms of her tiny feet and had to be airlifted to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland for treatment.
“I got the phone call that Paislee had stepped on a metal cover and burned her feet,” Welch said Tuesday from the hospital. “They were headed to the closest hospital. By the time she got there, she had pulled off the big blisters. The doctors said they’re second-degree burns, and that’s only because we have such thick skin on the bottom of our feet.”
Paislee and her sister were playing in the splash park while being supervised by Welch’s child care provider and longtime friend Jennifer Berg.
“She goes to day care with a good friend of mine who I’ve known forever and she takes the kids to the park and on little adventures. We’ve been to that park 100 times,” Welch said. She said all the kids in Berg’s charge had shoes on, but several had pulled their shoes off.
Berg said Paislee’s injuries were heart-wrenching, adding she hadn’t expected a hot metal cover in a play area designed for children. Having had some medical training, Berg said she knew to rinse Paislee’s feet in cold water versus using ice.
“It was like every other visit to the water park. The kids were running around back and forth to the push button after getting something to drink,” Berg said. Paislee stepped on a brown, metal, diamond-patterned plate covering the splash park controls, she said.
“It happened so quickly. I ran to her because she was froze in fear and crying, so I picked her up. I thought she was stung by a bee or something. She was reaching for her feet and that’s when I noticed what happened,” Berg said.
No local agencies claimed ownership of the park, but Jackson County Roads and Parks officials replaced the metal covers within hours of Paislee’s injuries.
John Vial, director of Jackson County Roads and Parks, said the park has been around for decades and was managed by the White City Community Improvement Association, which also organizes Cascade Bingo and lobbied for urban renewal dollars to help fund improvement projects.
“It’s not a formally designated county park, and we don’t have any involvement,” he said. “The weird thing is that, when push comes to shove, when the urban renewal thing was set to sunset, it was technically going to become a county park at a future date,” said Vial.
“We replaced those covers with some plastic fiber-type covers when we found out what had happened. Even though it’s not a park we manage and maintain, we figured we could probably find something better. So we replaced the metal covers with fiber-type covers. It’s taken care of so it won’t happen again.”
Vial cautioned parents to use shoes at water play areas, especially during the current heat wave, and to try keeping shoes on their children’s feet.
Candice Goodman, an administrator for the White City Community Watch social media page, tried determining who was responsible for the park after Welch’s daughter was injured.
“Each place I called thought the other owned it,” Goodman said.
“I can, with confidence, say it does not belong to Eagle Point School District 9. It does not belong to Jackson County. It is listed with Jackson County assessor as property of Urban Renewal Project, who disbanded in 2014.”
Both Goodman and Welch were simply relieved and grateful to county officials who stepped in to remedy the situation and cautioned parents to check temperatures of utility covers at water play parks.
Goodman was pleased with the fast response by the county.
“The admin team of White City Community Watch group page are in agreement that this should be used as a beginning to higher safety standards,” Goodman said.
“Remember the metal slides? They’re almost completely gone now because of incidents like this. I’m proud to be a part of a community that cares about other people this way.”
Welch said Paislee, who turned 1 May 3, was struggling with her pain levels.
“They are gnarly, bad burns, man. She’s a brand-new walker, so it feels really unfair. This metal plate was five feet away from the button the kids push for water,” Welch said.
“We might possibly be able to come home this weekend if the doctors can keep her pain under control. It’s just so sad that she had to go through so much. She had to go through being burned, six tries to get an IV in her little arms to be able to get pain meds so she could be sedated for the flight, and all from just playing at the water park. I just wanted the damn thing fixed and for it to not happen to anyone else’s child.”
Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.