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Kiwanis Club donates $50,000 for Phase 1 of a planned six-phase $1 million playground project slated for completion by summer of 2023

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY CHELSIE CARTER - Prineville Kiwanis Club members join Crook County Parks and Recreation District officials to celebrate a large donation to help move forward a new playground in Stryker Park.Plans to enhance Stryker Park playground with an array of Crook County-themed attractions for kids of all ages took a giant step forward last week following a $50,000-plus donation from Kiwanis Club of Prineville for Phase 1 of a planned Six Phase, $1 million playground project slated for completion by Summer of 2023.

A collaborative partnership between Crook County Parks and Recreation Foundation, Crook County Parks and Recreation District, Kiwanis Club of Prineville, Rotary Club of Crook County, and numerous community stakeholders, the planned Stryker Park playground project is expected to break ground within the next few weeks with the erection of a shade sail beside the splash pad located on Old Stryker Field. Kiwanis members presented their donation for the project to representatives of Crook County Parks District and Foundation during a ceremony at the park on Sept. 15.

"It's right in our channel of projects that we support," Kiwanis Club of Prineville Past President Ray Austin said. "We have been working with Parks and Recs for years on building and maintaining other parks in Prineville, and this is just part of a long-term vision of our club."

Austin said funding for the planned project was collected during the Kiwanis' annual

Casino and Auction Night in October of 2021. The donation continues a longstanding partnership between Kiwanis and Parks and Recreation to improve Stryker Park that began with discussions some seven years earlier.

"After we fundraised for the splash pad, we started working with them on this vision to improve the rest of the park," Austin said. "Last year's Casino Night raised about $70,000, and we wanted to put that money back into the community to improve the lives of our youth."

In addition to the $43,000 donated by Kiwanis Club for materials to build the shade structure, an additional $11,000 was contributed through the club's foundation for construction of a fence to surround the planned 2-to-5-year-old toddler play area.

"We think this is going to be a fantastic addition to the community." Austin said.

Remaining phases in the plan include a FreeNotes Musical Instrument Trail featuring multiple outdoor instruments, including keyboard and xylophone, at a cost of $75,000; playground geared toward children ages 2-to-5, $200,000; an ADA-accessible inclusive play space, $200,000; and play area primarily for ages 6 and up, $400,000.

Chelsie Carter, executive director of Crook County Parks and Recreation District, said she is glad to see the project get back on track after seeing it lose some of its momentum in recent months. Identified by a countywide survey in 2020 as one of the community's more urgent needs, the project seems to be benefitting from the reset target amount, which lowered the estimated price tag for completion by one-third, from $1.5 million to $1 million. Coupled with last week's Kiwanis donation, the ball is rolling again on what Carter called a conceptualized 20-year renovation plan to improve the county's 13 parks and three campgrounds operating under Parks and Recreation District's jurisdiction.

"Scaling that amount back (to $1 million) to make it a little more digestible and manageable for the community will allow us to actually follow through with our fundraising needs and goals," Carter said. "It's a pretty big project. The goal is to have the 2-to-5-year-old area and shade structure in place for Summer of 2023.

"For kiddos in wheelchairs and walkers, we want to make sure we have something for everybody. I can tell you we don't have anything like that in our area yet."

Carter said themed elements in the plan will focus on "things that put us on the map and established us as a community," including Ochoco National Forest, Steins Pillar; Fossil Discovery; Crooked River: Ochoco Creek, City of Prineville Railway, Music and Art, and Accessibility. The themed components pay homage to the city's rich history by acknowledging contributions of its farming, ranching, timber, and technology industries.

Though seemingly well on its way, completion of the project will ultimately hinge on Parks and Recreation's ability to secure grant money and community donations. No donation is considered insignificant, Carter said.

"Every little bit starts something," she said. "People are really excited to see something new. We have already received quite a bit of commitment of in-kind donations from our local contractors for pulling together a fence to keep our 2-to-5-year-olds safe. We really want people of all levels of the community to be involved.

"If you donate, we want to be able to put your name on something out there. This is a commitment to our youth, an opportunity to engage folks of all ages and abilities. The hope is to create a park where there is generational intersect."

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