"It became quite apparent there were a number of problem areas that had to be addressed," said Park District Board Member Ayn Wieskamp, who represents Pleasanton. "At the meeting last month everyone agreed that there was simply no way we could do all the repairs that need to be done and be open for this season. From electrical to the waterslides themselves, there are water issues, rust issues, upheavals, basic safety issues."
Operator Glenn Kierstad, who opened the Rapids Waterslides in 1981, said the inspections are normally done in the fall, listing anything to be improved, then again in the spring after the cleanup has been completed in time for the May opening.
"We've always passed state inspections with flying colors," Kierstad said, but last fall the Park District only told him to remove most of the materials used to operate the waterslides.
"This year they did inspections and took pictures in late December, early January, when the slide looked as bad as it could possibly look," Kierstad said. "They came up with a number of violations, some I agree with, some I don't."
Kierstad said it is his opinion that the Park District wants the slides closed, which is why it implemented this new method of inspection, coming up with an estimate of $400,00 to fix everything. He expects that repairs could be made for much less, although he is not allowed to see the inspection reports until the week before the Park District Board Operations Committee meeting March 15.
At that meeting, staff members will present approximated costs to continue the waterslides, and the Board of Directors will make a recommendation to the full board, depending on public concerns and the economics of the park.
"If we come up with a cost, we may say, 'All right, maybe it's worth doing,'" Wieskamp said. "We could go out with a request for proposals, we could check that out, I have no objections."
"It all comes down to what it costs," she added. "Can we afford to do it, and how long would it be used."
She said the Park District is spending half a million dollars each year to make sure everything district-wide is ADA-accessible and this would be another cost with the waterslides.
Kierstad estimated that the parking and concession revenue ranges between $70,000 and $90,000 per year. Rapids Waterslides employs a staff of 35, with the majority in high school and college, and has had a perfect safety record for the last 30 years, he added.
"We sell 26,000 tickets a year, and give away to charities and with coupons another 2,000," he said.
"I have a financial interest in keeping it open, but above that it's one of the only facilities in their park system that caters to young adults and children," Kierstad said.
"We're in limbo," said Jane Jones, office manager at Rapids Waterslides. "At this point we'd be taking new applications, the workers would start cutting the bushes, scrubbing and painting and getting the place ready."
She said school groups already have contacted her to reserve the waterslides for their end-of-year parties in May.
Kierstad's 20-year lease for Rapids Waterslides expired in 2006. Since then the Park District has continued the operating agreement on a one- or two-year lease.
"During that timeframe, we were instructed not to make any major improvements on the slides because EBRPD was preparing a Land-Use Plan that would determine the fate of the waterslides," Kierstad reported.
Last year after the Park District held a hearing on its Land Use Plan that calls for an eventual closing of the waterslides, it decided to keep the slides open for the short term. The plan also calls for improving the overall trail system; developing multi-use recreational trails to allow access into the western areas; and installing more picnic sites and shade shelters for family picnicking within the waterfront area.
The March 15 Board Operations Committee meeting is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. at the EBRPD headquarters, 2950 Peralta Oaks Court in Oakland.