Flooding befouls spray park

Aug. 2 storm required seven days of cleanup

The new gym floor at the Adler Athletic Complex at Penn State Altoona wasn’t the only recreational facility flooded by Spring Run during a storm on the afternoon of Aug. 2.

Less than a mile downstream, the creek came over its banks at a curve where the bottom is elevated with a large gravel bar, flooding the Juniata Memorial Spray Park.

The water was no more than a foot-and-a-half deep, but it was muddy and it entered the ground-level drains, filling the pipes and a 4,000-gallon recirculation tank, Central Blair Recreation and Park Commission Executive Director Mike Hofer and Parks Superintendent Tom Boslet, said at a meeting Thursday.

It took the commission’s entire staff seven days, “a few hundred” employee-hours and more than a dozen times filling the system, circulating the water and rinsing it before the park could reopen for the last couple weeks of the season, Hofer said.

It cost about $2,500, mainly in lost revenue for general use and scheduled parties, according to administrative assistant Judy Irvin.

One of the biggest hassles was the pumping, bailing with buckets, and wet-vacuum removal of water from the open-top tank — after workers repeatedly filled the system with water by spraying hoses into the drains.

“It wasn’t fun,” Hofer said.

Workers were covered in mud, it was hot inside the tank — which is normally covered with a grate — and it smelled like a stagnant pond, he said.

Fortunately, a staffer managed to turn off the spray apparatus in time to keep the floodwater out of the filtration system, despite the suddenness with which those waters rose, Hofer said.

The staff was helpless, however, as those floodwaters rose and ran into the drains, he said.

“That’s great,” commission member Bill Neugebauer said of the magnitude of the cleanup effort. “I thought (the park) was done for the year.”

Since he joined the commission 22 years ago, the creek has flooded the park — which formerly featured a pool — four times, Hofer said.

This time, something needs to be done, Commissioner Joe Metzgar said.

There was talk about dredging the creek, building up the embankment behind the spray park and sealing the drains when a storm threatens.

The company that installed the spray park might have good ideas on how to protect the system, Metzgar said.

Hofer previously inquired about what could be done and learned from the city Public Works Department that the Department of Environmental Protection would be responsible for issuing permits.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.