Keep the waterslides open | March 2, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Column - March 2, 2012

Keep the waterslides open

by Jeb Bing

The East Bay Regional Park District wants to close the Shadow Cliffs waterslides in Pleasanton for good. It's already said it won't open the slides this summer, no doubt disappointing the 26,000 who used them last year. But with park district inspectors declaring the slides unsafe and with repairs estimated at $400,000, the park district, never a fan of the slides and its longtime operator Glenn Kierstad, wants to replace them with something less costly to operate, such as an interpretive center. That should keep the summer crowds coming!

To be fair before making the final decision, the park district will hold its final public hearing at a Board Operations Committee meeting on the issue March 15. Even though the slides, along with most of its users and supporters are in Pleasanton, you'll have to go to the park district's headquarters at 2950 Peralta Oaks Court in Oakland to express an opinion. On the other hand, don't bother. The decision's been made by Ayn Wieskamp, our park district board member from Livermore who represents Pleasanton's interest, and her colleagues who already have said they plan to close the waterslides.

The upcoming hearing is a sham. At previous hearings, support for retaining and upgrading the waterslides was almost unanimous. Susan Andrade-Wax, Pleasanton's Community Services director, and all the members of the city's Parks and Recreation Commission asked the East Bay Park District representatives to keep the waterslides open. Even some who liked the alternative plans for more trails and the interpretive center, also asked that the slides stay open.

But the die was cast when Wieskamp and park district inspectors invited a reporter from the San Jose Mercury News for an exclusive tag-along look at the slides in January. Kierstad, who has operated the waterslides since they were built and knows the maintenance schedule, wasn't invited. The inspection took place in mid-winter when the slides aren't maintained and probably are in their worst condition. No one even turned on the water to see if they could operate before unnamed city, county, fire district and state inspectors declared the slides a hazard that shouldn't be allowed to open again.

We've watched the thousands of kids, including many of our own, come breathtakingly down the Shadow Cliffs slides summer after summer. Since 1981, when Kierstad obtained is permit to build and operate the slides, they have offered a reasonably-priced hot summer day of fun for families and children who could enjoy a day of cooling recreation right here in Pleasanton. Kierstad says he could make the needed repairs to the slides for much less than the $400,000 the park district estimates, but he will need a 20-year lease to keep them running to pay off the loans he'll need. He's likely out of luck, and with no thanks for the 30 years he's operated the slides, trouble-free.

Without the slides, the thousands who might have enjoyed them this summer and in the future will now have to drive to waterslide parks in San Jose or Concord to spend their money for summer fun.