Digging up money for parks

Kids get the chance to drive the big rigs at Parks Foundation’s Dozer Day

Kids will be in control at a Columbia Tech Center construction site next weekend. Kids driving bulldozers isn’t the latest solution to the shortage of skilled workers – rather, it’s an event to support Clark County parks.

Following the success of last year’s event, Dozer Day is back – and bigger. Businesses, including many from the building and construction industry, have stepped up to help put on the event to support the Parks Foundation. With the help of a licensed operator, kids can crawl into the seat of about 30 different pieces of construction equipment and drive the machinery.

The Parks Foundation was formed in 1999 to support Clark County parks and recreation programs. Because parks often suffer when funds are tight, the foundation was developed to create an endowment to provide a stable resource. The endowment stands at about $100,000 today, and the foundation has a goal of $1,000,000. With much to be done, the foundation began looking for unique fundraising vehicles.

About two years ago, the foundation learned of an annual Dozer Day event in Wisconsin and realized a similar event here would be a natural extension for the Parks Foundation.

"It came together with a variety of people working very hard to make it happen," said Phyllis Goldhammer, Parks Foundation executive director, "and none of us knowing for sure what it would look like."

Henry Gerhard is the president of the Parks Foundation board and land acquisition and development manager for Pacific Lifestyle Homes. He presented the idea of Dozer Day to his industry peers, who embraced it as an opportunity to expose kids and their parents to the work they do and maybe even recruit future employees.

"It gives them a way of presenting themselves to the community in a fun way," said Gerhard, "as opposed to the usual way of stopping traffic and sending (people) on detours."

The building and construction industry has been integral to the success of the event, offering up money, equipment, volunteers and more.

"The Parks Foundation could not have done this without the industry jumping in whole heartedly," said Goldhammer.

Many companies that typically compete against each other are working together to support the community they live and work in. Parks are needed to balance the roads and houses the industry builds in the county.

"The parks are an important part of what our community is made up of," said Jeff Woodside, CEO of Nutter Corp., an excavation contractor sponsoring the event. "We need to have some open space out there."

Battle Ground excavation contractor Tapani Underground will bring a half dozen pieces of equipment to Dozer Day. Tapani spokesman John Lipe said the event brings the industry together.

"We are leaving the competition in the field and bringing the companies together," he said. "It’s great to see happen."

Ten acres of the Columbia Tech Center site on Mill Plain Boulevard between 172nd and 192nd avenues is dedicated to the event. More than 30 earth movers will be on site for kids ages 4 to 12 to operate. About another 30 stationary pieces of equipment will be on display. Four articulated dump trucks will ferry attendees around the event site. A number of other games, displays and activities for children and adults are being hosted by Dozer Day sponsors. Aside from the many construction- and building-related sponsors, companies outside the industry are also involved, such as Beaches Restaurant, Les Schwab Tire Centers, iQ Credit Union, Waste Connections and the Vancouver Business Journal, among others.

About 10,000 people are expected at this year’s event with a goal of raising $50,000.

Rinker Materials
Building materials supplier
Chuck Rose, Aggregate Manager

Parks enhance the projects that companies like Rinker are involved in building, said Aggregate Manager Chuck Rose about the company’s support for Dozer Day. And besides the thrill kids get from operating the massive equipment, the event brings a much larger statement to the community, he said.
"As an industry we can show we are good neighbors," said Rose. "We are a necessary part of the economy."
Nobody wants to see a road project or development in front of their house, said Rose, but in the long run it is good for the community.
Rose served as co-chair of the event last year and the company remains extensively involved this year. Rinker is providing equipment, volunteers and material at the site.

Nutter Corp.
Excavation contractor
Jerry Nutter, President

Nutter Corp. has spearheaded much of the organization and marketing for this year’s Dozer Day. The company and its employees are volunteering their time and equipment for the event.
If today’s shortage of qualified workers in the trades is any indication of what the future holds, the construction and building industry can’t start recruiting early enough. Nutter CEO Jeff Woodside said Dozer Day is a great opportunity to expose a future generation of workers to the field.
"It gives them an idea of what the vocation is all about," he said.

Pacific Lifestyle Homes
Kevin Wann, President

Pacific Lifestyle Homes’ Land Acquisition and Development Manager Henry Gerhard serves as the president of the Parks Foundation and worked to get his industry peers involved. Pacific Lifestyle Homes is sponsoring the Dozer Day VIP night prior to the event.
As a homebuilder, Pacific Lifestyle Homes wants to do what it can to create a good community that people are attracted to, as well as improve recreation opportunities for its employees and families.
"It’s important to us to have a nice area that people want to come to, stay and raise their families," said Gerhard.

George Schmid and Sons Inc.
Excavation contractor
Kevin Schmid, President

George Schmid and Sons is bringing a dozen pieces of construction equipment and volunteers to operate the machinery and run the event.
Company President Kevin Schmid said it’s good to be involved in an event that leaves kids with such bright smiles on their faces.
"Every community needs parks and recreation," added Schmid. "It’s always a battle for parks to get enough money."

Dozer Day

Benefiting the Parks Foundation
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 20
Columbia Tech Center on Mill Plain Boulevard between 172nd and 192nd avenues
Free parking
Admission: Adults $7, Kids (4-12) $5, Kids 3 and under free
www.parksfoundation.us for more information.

VIP Night

(adults only)
5 to 7 p.m. Friday, May 19
Columbia Tech Center on Mill Plain Boulevard between 172nd and 192nd avenues
$15 admission includes food from local restaurants and beer and wine. Several items will be auctioned off.
RSVP to the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce at 360-694-2588

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