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Old Stryker Field playground proposal named a finalist in Portland Trail Blazers and Moda Health Community Assist Program

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - An early design of the new playground is shared during an event at Eastside Church last spring.

The Crook County Parks and Recreation Department is hoping to receive a large funding boost for a new playground courtesy of the Portland Trail Blazers and Moda Health.

The two entities have chosen Old Stryker Field in Prineville as one of three finalists for the Moda Assist Program, now in its sixth year. Plans are afoot to build a new destination playground on the field just east of Crook County Fire and Rescue, alongside an incoming splash pad.

Online voting will determine which of the three finalist communities receives funds to help construct a new playground in their town. Moda Health will commit $20 per basketball assist in Blazers games throughout the current NBA season to the winning community and project. Through the first 48 of 82 regular season games this regular season, Blazers All-NBA point guard and program ambassador Damian Lillard and his teammates have accumulated 1,050 assists. Lillard leads the team with 6.1 assists per game.

Online voting for each community will open on Feb. 20 and continue through March 20 with people invited to vote daily at trailblazers.com/assists.

Plans to build a new playground on Stryker Field first originated about six months ago, according to Duane Garner, executive director to the Parks and Recreation Department. Recognizing that the "Castle Park" playground, which was built in the mid-1990s, was reaching the end of its shelf life, Linda Haden, board chair of the Parks and Recreation Foundation and the one who spearheaded the Castle Park project in the 1990s, launched an effort to add a new playground to town near the incoming splash pad.

The foundation paid for Danielle Campbell, a designer from Playgrounds by Leathers in New York, to visit Prineville in late September to see the site and get ideas from the community. She talked to some Barnes Butte Elementary students on Design Day, Sept. 11, where she found out just what they wanted in a play structure.

Garner added that the project had to clear some hurdles before leaders could move forward into fundraising efforts. Because the site is on a flood plain, FEMA had to give approval to use it, and the City of Prineville, which owns the property, had to approve use of the land. Both agencies have since given the project a green light to move forward.

"We are working on a conceptual design," Garner said, adding that project leaders recently met with Powell Butte elementary students to gather their input.

"We are incorporating a number of different types of components but really wanting to feature Prineville's rich history as well as geology in the area," he said. "We hope to have some sort of sand pit where kids can dig for fossils that have actually been found in Central Oregon."

Garner went on to say the playground will likely include play structures that profile the community's railway history as well as its timber mill roots. In addition, project leaders hope to incorporate musical instruments into the design.

"It's playground equipment that is actually tuned," he explained. "Some of those features are actually fun for adults to play and it would be ADA accessible."

The intent is to build a destination-scale playground, Garner said, that would possibly draw day visitors Bend, Redmond and Madras.

Parks leaders had noticed other communities in the region, Redmond in particular, take advantage of the Moda Assist Program in recent years and decided it was worth pursuing to help fund the new playground. They were delighted to learn they made the top three.

"I am super excited. This is kind of the kickoff to our fundraising efforts," Garner remarked. "Now, it's up to the community to vote. We need the votes, that's how this thing works."

Prineville was chosen as a finalist on the strength of their plans for spurring community engagement in Moda Assist Program. Karis Stoudamire-Phillips, director of corporate social responsibilities for Moda Health, they scrutinized how applying communities planned to engage their residents.

"They really had plans around that," she said of Prineville.

It also didn't hurt that when the Trail Blazers and Moda held their Rip City Rally in September that community leaders and citizens made a strong impression.

"Our visit to Prineville was awesome," Stoudamire-Phillips gushed. "The community really came out. The school visits were excellent. We felt so welcome the entire day."


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