Baker City’s plan to build a playground accessible to children of all abilities received a major boost recently when a state board approved a $164,000 grant.
The grant from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department will cover more than half the project’s estimated cost of $281,000, said Joyce Bornstedt, the city’s technical administrative supervisor.
“It’s very exciting,” Bornstedt said Tuesday of the state grant that puts the city on track to build the new playground at Geiser-Pollman Park in the spring of 2020.
Karla Macy of Baker City is also enthusiastic.
Her 3-year-old son, Augustus, has spina bifida, and Macy has been promoting the city’s fundraising campaign for the all-inclusive playground addition at Geiser-Pollman.
Macy attended several local events this winter urging residents to cast online votes for Baker City in a contest sponsored by Moda insurance and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Baker City won that competition in a landslide and received $37,740 through the Moda Assist program for the playground, Bornstedt said.
Macy said the state grant will allow the city to build a larger playground, with more pieces of equipment, than would have been possible otherwise.
“As the parents of a child who uses a wheelchair we’re constantly looking for places where our son can play, and there aren’t that many,” she said.
Macy believes the new playground will not only benefit local children and families, but also lure travelers on Interstate 84 to stop in Baker City.
In addition to the state grant and the Moda Assist award, the city has received these donations for the all-inclusive playground, Bornstedt said:
• $20,000 from the Sunderland Foundation
• $10,000 from the city budget
• $2,000 from the Sunridge Inn
• $2,000 from the Super 8 motel
• $1,000 from Motel 6
• $416 from a fundraiser at the Sunridge Inn during the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally
• $363 from an Albertsons fundraiser
• $238 from a fundraiser by Brian and Corrine Vegter, owners of Churchill School
Bornstedt said the city has also applied for a $25,000 grant from the Leo Adler Foundation.
This fall city officials will be working on a detailed plan for the new playground.
On Oct. 10 a subcommittee of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will meet with a playground consultant, Bornstedt said.
Later the city will schedule a public open house where residents, and in particular parents of children who would benefit from the new playground, can look at possible pieces of equipment and give their opinions about the ones they’d most like to see installed.
Examples include swings that are accessible to all children, and merry-go-rounds and other equipment that children in wheelchairs can use.
Ultimately the goal is to build a playground where all kids, regardless of their abilities, can play “side by side,” Bornstedt said.
“It brings together children of different abilities and allows them to play together and interact,” she said.
Although city officials haven’t decided what the new playground will include, the location is set.
The all-inclusive playground will be south of the existing playground that was built in May 2014, a project for which the city also received a state grant.
Bornstedt said the wood chips will be removed because they’re not compatible with wheelchairs and walkers, and she hopes to replace that with the spongy surfacing that was installed as part of the 2014 project.
And although she concedes this part of the project will bother some people, Bornstedt said the tall metal swing structure will be removed.
The swings are about a century old and do not meet current playground safety standards, she said.
Workers will also remove the three metal-lattice play domes and a structure that includes two short slides.
The taller single slide is outside the “footprint” of the all-inclusive playground and it might stay, Bornstedt said.
The fate of the three play structures between the swings and the 2014 playground isn’t certain, she said. She’d like to remove those structures, which are about 25 years old, and reinstall them elsewhere in the city. Bornstedt said she will be talking with a playground installer about the feasibility of doing that.
The city’s tentative goal is to build the all-inclusive playground in May 2020.