Parks leaders examining options for new playground
The Crook County Parks and Recreation Foundation Board wants to make sure the next playground it builds is special.
Board members want it to feature attractions unique to the county that highlight what makes the community special, and they are willing to reach out to multiple companies to meet that goal. Evidence of this can be found in recent outreach to Wildwood Playgrounds, an outfit much closer to home than the Florida-based Leathers Playgrounds that parks leaders met with about a year ago.
Duane Garner, executive director of Crook County Parks and Recreation District, said that the Foundation Board moved far enough forward with Leathers to obtain a conceptual design from the company, which designed the Castle Park playground in the 1990s. This design included input from local elementary school children and featured multiple play structures that celebrate the Crook County community.
However, moving forward on blueprints will cost around $25,000, and building the actual playground is estimated to cost $600,000 or more. So the Foundation Board wants to make sure no stone is left unturned before it commits.
"Before we did that, we wanted to do a little more due diligence as far as just looking at other options," Garner said. "There are lots of good playground companies out there that are doing a lot of interesting things."
While Garner doesn't find fault with Leathers and acknowledges that cost differences between playground companies are fairly minimal – "The playground world is very, very competitive" – he offers some reasons why Wildwood is an attractive option. Not only is it much closer to home, the Foundation Board can choose different custom features to create a Crook County or Central Oregon playground theme.
Garner said the board could choose different types of surfacing, and if it goes with a rubber surface, the options really expand.
"You can get it in any color that you can imagine," he said. "You can literally do rivers, creeks represented in the rubber surfacing."
Other options under consideration that Wildwood could provide include play equipment with treetops and educational panels to represent the Ochoco National Forest. A climbing wall could be built, Garner said, that looks like Steins Pillar.
"It actually looks like rock," he said, "actually looks like the pillar itself."
The Foundation Board wants to make the City of Prineville Railway a main feature of the playground, and Garner notes that Wildwood offers "some really cool train options."
Like Leathers, Wildwood is willing to provide a conceptual design based on the different options the Foundation Board feeds it. Those options, Garner said, have primarily been developed by the board with input collected throughout the past year from members of the public. Whether the board moves forward with that design remains to be seen.
While parks leaders shop around, they are planning to get more community members involved in the process.
"The past year, it has mostly been the Parks and Rec Foundation Board that has been steering this process," Garner said. "We are establishing a committee of folks that is broad. It would be open to anybody who is expressing much interest in wanting to participate."
He added that parks leaders are trying to build some broad community support for the project moving forward. This not only becomes important during the design phase but during any fundraising work to move the playground effort forward.
"If there are folks who would like to participate, that would be appreciated," Garner said.
To join the playground effort, contact Duane Garner, executive director of Crook County Parks and Recreation District, at 541-447-1209.
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