An Eagle Scout candidate from nearby Ripon brought his family to Jacob Myers Park earlier this month to help undertake his Service Project to repaint the Rocket Monument there.
It has been more than 15 years since the Rocket was reinstalled in the park, following an overhaul that modified it so it could be used as a monument, and it hasn’t been repainted since.
Originally, it was one of several play structures in the park that commemorated the space race in the 1960s, but it was removed when safety standards dictated that it was dangerous the way it was built.
It was taken by a member of Friends of Jacob Myers Park to rework and make safe. He replaced pieces bolted together with welded joints and took out the slide that extended through the side. The remaining stairway inside got a cap plate bolted over the entrance so youngsters won’t be tempted to climb up inside.
The stairway came in handy, however, as the Wik family climbed up inside to do the priming then the painting.
Luke Wik, a member of Ripon Boy Scout Troop 414, organized and executed the work as his Eagle Scout Service Project, and by their second day of work, the new color scheme was taking shape. The new colors of the Rocket are red, white and blue. Wik was assisted by his father, Geoff Wik, who handled the lift and the exterior spray painting. Both Luke, his twin sister Katie, and mother Jennifer managed the interior work.
“The rocket has been important to the community for many years, that is the reason we kept it as a monument,” stated Riverbank Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick. “The Friends of Jacob Myers Park were trying to find a way to get it painted and we received a call from the Eagle Scout. Many people have great memories of playing on it or taking their children to play on it when it was a part of the original play equipment at the park.”
The Rocket is a monument and no longer accessible to the public. The design and colors were selected by Wik. The new coat of paint has revived the Rocket and made it a sight to see once again.
“I came back here and thought about the rocket and how it doesn’t pop at all,” said Wik about selecting the restoring of the rocket as his Eagle project. “It didn’t look good and I saw there was history behind it.”
The prep began on Thursday, Oct. 7 and took a couple days. Then the family set the primer and began painting the rocket on Saturday, Oct. 9.
“We are making it look right,” stated Wik. “We pressure washed all of it and then we put a rust converter on it to make it last longer. We also grinded out a lot of chips on the paint because it is old and we needed a smooth surface before painting. We did all that. It took two days to do. It was longer than I thought.”
Although the task took multiple days, a lot of elbow grease, tools and materials the family completed the project.
“I am very thankful to California High Reach that donated the lift,” expressed Wik. “They have been awesome. I have done painting projects with other scouts and for other Eagle projects but I have never done one this tall.”
Wik has about 40 to 50 badges and has enjoyed the weeklong scout camps during his 12 years in the scouts.
“I am just proud,” remarked his dad with an emotional tone. “Ultimately the fact that he stuck through it for so many years and has helped so many kids.”
“I am glad that it is almost coming to an end,” expressed mom Jennifer. “Luke has been in scouts for 12 years and we have done everything. He sailed the Florida Keys. I did that with him. We have hiked through Yosemite. We have hiked almost everywhere in Northern California especially. He has just been through it all and to see it finally come to an end is nice. I am proud of him. I am glad he is finally finishing.”
A service project is part of the requirements to be advanced to the rank of Eagle Scout, and Jacob Myers Park has been the recipient of several such projects over the years.
The first was the then-new redwood fence installed around the Memorial Grove in the middle of the park. Another was the installation of bird houses on poles around the park. One was guard rails installed along the road to the upper parking lot in the rear of the park. And one was the installation of a set of two horseshoe pits.
The Friends of Jacob Myers Park was formed in the late 1990s to reclaim Jacob Myers from disrepair. Founder Scott McRitchie noticed that families were avoiding the river facility because of homeless use and finding drug paraphernalia on the ground.
In 2000, the group, along with the city, was the recipient of several grants that allowed the installation of the modern playground that is a main feature of the park now. It was installed by members of the Riverbank Rotary Club and other citizens from around town.
Another state grant brought improvement and installation of a boat ramp on the river’s edge.
News reporter Virginia Still contributed to this report.