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concerned citizen Marv Sumner leads effort to replace Ochoco Creek Park basketball courts

JASON CHANEY - The asphalt and basketball hoops at Ochoco Creek Park have been removed and are slated for replacement in the near future as part of a major upgrade.

Park-goers and basketball enthusiasts might have noticed recently that the basketball hoops and asphalt court at Ochoco Creek Park have disappeared.

Don't worry, they aren't gone for good – and when everything is put back, it will be much better than what got removed.

The basketball court renovation project can be traced back to the concerns of an interested citizen who shares an interest in basketball with his kids and grandchildren. Marv Sumner has four sons who all played basketball and these days they join his grandchildren from time to time playing at the park.

Sumner had noticed that the condition of the court had degraded in recent years and wondered if there might be a way to fix the problem.

"They (the court and hoops) had been there for a long time," he said. "We have evidence of at least 34 years, as shared by a (Prineville) City Council member who played there when he was a youth."

He noted that the courts had pretty deep cracks in the asphalt, which had been repaired periodically with some preventative maintenance.

"They weren't hazardous or anything like that," he observed, "but they didn't make a good surface for playing the game."

So, Sumner decided to take some pictures of the blacktop and while he was checking out the condition of the facilities, he put a carpenter's level on the basketball hoop posts. None of them were level, and the backboards, rims and nets were similarly in need of an upgrade.

"So, I decided that maybe it was time to look at the whole caboodle," he said.

His first visit was to the Crook County Parks and Recreation Board, where he showed his photos and pitched the idea of replacing the hoops and the court. The group liked the idea and was willing to contribute some funding, but they wondered how much it would cost and how they would find the rest of the money needed for the renovation.

Sumner did some research and initially discovered the hoops could be replaced for less than $20,000 – but the court would stay the same.

"The paving experts and the people who do cushioned courts, I talked to two of those different companies," he said. "They said those cracks would re-emerge in seven years and there wasn't any real thing you could do to patch them and make them useful again."

The decision was consequently made to pursue a cushioned court surface – and not just because it would make more financial sense in the long run.

"The cushioned court makes it easier on the legs and makes it attractive," Sumner explained. He went on to note that they would include lines for games other than basketball, including pickleball, four square and hopscotch.

"We wanted to make this thing useful for more than just basketball players," he said.

The hoops, meanwhile, would feature more durable double rims and 6x6-inch galvanized steel posts with powder coating and a lifetime guarantee. Also, one of the hoops will be lowered to 8 feet high for the younger kids to enjoy.

A plan in place, Sumner began to pursue funding. He approached the Prineville City Council, the Crook County Court and Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce. All the local entities liked the idea and pledged financial support. In addition, a Bend resident in attendance at the county court presentation offered a $2,500 donation to the effort.

Along with the monetary donations came several in-kind contributions that Sumner said really helped move the project forward. The city and county joined Tri-County Paving, McCall Oil, SMAF and Taylor NW in helping collectively cover the cost of laying new asphalt – an estimated expense of $30,000.

Ultimately, the various contributions enabled the approximately $65,000 project to move forward – and perhaps more impressively, move forward in a hurry. Three months or less has passed since Sumner approached the parks board, and new asphalt will already get installed this week.

"This is unusually fast," said Duane Garner, the parks district's executive director, and leader of several parks projects in recent years. "A lot of projects sometimes take years, especially when you have to start writing grants and raising funds to match. This one, everybody got excited, and it has been able to happen in pretty short order."

Garner couldn't say for certain how soon the project will be completed. Once the asphalt is in place, they have to wait for the rest of the materials to arrive and schedule installation of the cushioned court. But he did concede that it should be useable again, hopefully, by the beginning of this summer.

But even when the project is done, other upgrades might emerge, depending on funding.

"(Fundraising) has been going so well that we are looking at some of the contingencies that we would like to see in the future," Sumner said, noting that bleachers and court lighting has been considered. "They aren't things that have to be done now, but they are great additions."

Regardless of whether those extras materialize, Sumner and all the people supporting the renovation are eager to see the project completed and enjoyed by the community.

"I hope the kids feel like it's theirs," Sumner said, "because we would like them to take good care of it."

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