Awards include $15,000 for Crook County Parks and Recreation Foundation and the Central Oregon Trail Alliance

CENTRAL OREGONIAN FILE PHOTO - Central Oregon Trail Alliance, a 2017 Facebook Community Action Grant recipient, played a major role in creating Prineville's community bike park.

Prineville's Facebook Data Center recently announced the 14 recipients of its Community Action Grants for 2017.

Facebook gives out a total of $100,000 each year to organizations for short-term, high-impact projects that address critical community needs within Crook County. The intent is to help nonprofits put the power of technology to use for community benefit and to connect people, improve education and promote local economic development.

Since 2011, the grant program has donated $1.265 million to Crook County schools and nonprofit organizations, with individual entities receiving up to $15,000 apiece for qualifying projects.

This year, recipients include Crook County Foundation, Christmas in the Pines, the Crook County 4-H program for new cameras and video technology upgrades, and Humane Society of the Ochocos for facility repairs. Crook County schools also received several grants for such departments as technology, speech pathology, high school agricultural science and technology and the Class of 2017 for its end-of-the-year party. Awards ranged from $2,500 to $15,000.

Earning the maximum grant amount this year were Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA) and the Crook County Parks and Recreation Foundation. COTA is planning to use the $15,000 to help fund trail improvements they voluntarily maintain on Ochoco National Forest, while the parks and rec foundation will utilize its grant to make upgrades to Ochoco Creek Park and its surrounding amenities.

Darlene Henderson, a Prineville member of COTA, was ecstatic when she learned the regional bicycle group earned $15,000.

"Wow!" she exclaimed.

COTA will use Facebook's Community Action Grant in partnership with an RTP grant they have already received to upgrade three trails that they care for as part of a volunteer service agreement with the U.S. Forest Service.

"None of them have received any ongoing maintenance, so there are sections that are impassible," Henderson explained.

COTA volunteers have chipped away at one of the trails, but the work is taking so long, it would take years to restore all three trails. With the grant money, the group will hire professionals to complete the repair work.

"It will be nice to see them come back to a serviceable state," Henderson said.

The Parks and Recreation Foundation is working with the Crook County Health Department on providing upgrades to Ochoco Creek Park that will encourage more outdoor physical activity locally. Improvements will include a skate park expansion, tennis court renovations and the addition of lighting along the Ochoco Creek bike path.

"It is a very big project," said Abby Leibowitz, the Health Department's AmeriCorps VISTA. "Facebook's involvement will really help us to leverage other funds and get more funding to really redo Ochoco Creek Park in a way that will make it accessible to everyone in the community."

Applicants for the Community Action Grants are required to operate a Facebook page for the organization — the requirement does not extend to personal pages. Grant guidelines also require the project "be used during a specific time period and have demonstrable metrics that can be publicly reported."

"We will ask for a semi-annual report of how the funds are being used and their impact as well as photos of your project we can share on our Facebook page," the guidelines states.

Grant winners will be invited to attend a reception at the Facebook data center next Friday afternoon and will be given a tour of the facility as well.

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