Construction Underway for Chiloquin’s New Schoolyard, Park

This article was in Tuesday’s (October 26th, 2021) Herald and News
Written By: Rick Childress, Herald and News 

Community members, stakeholders and local students broke ground Tuesday on a new $1.3 million schoolyard for Chiloquin Elementary that will feature upgrades to playground facilities and provide a new, vibrant outdoor space for the community.

“I went to school here, grew up here, always was jealous of everybody else’s playgrounds and community parks. We’re gonna have the best one in Klamath County thanks to everybody that’s here,” said Rita Hepper, the principal of Chiloquin Elementary, during a groundbreaking ceremony at the school.

The upbeat ceremony was well attended as legions of Chiloquin students were ushered out of class for the event, which included ceremonial drumming and a blessing for the ground by Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry.

“It is a good day to see everybody here and see what was accomplished when we come together for our children and for our community,” Gentry said.

The philanthropically-funded Chiloquin Green Schoolyard project will add a new playground, outdoor classroom, covered basketball court laden with artwork and walking paths flanked by native plants — featuring signage in both English and Klamath languages — all behind the school. In the elementary’s front yard will be a pollinator garden and greenhouse.

“I want to say thank you to the philanthropic organizations that are here,” said Clay Dumont, a Klamath Tribal Council member. “We know that there’s a lot of competition for these resources. There are worthy causes, worthy communities, folks in need all over the state and the country, and indeed the world. So for you to put those dollars here in our little corner of the world, for our kids, means a great, great deal.”

The space, when finished, will be open both during and after school hours, creating a new public park, according to a release from the Trust for Public Lands. TPL is a national nonprofit that creates parks and was heavily involved in making the Chiloquin project a reality.

The project is the work of numerous philanthropic organizations and a coalition of local and national partners that included the Klamath Tribes and the Klamath County School District, as well as the Willamette Partnership, an environmental nonprofit that helps facilitate projects to improve the health of Oregonians.

John Rademacher, a school district board member and member of Chiloquin Visions in Progress, said the playground is likely the largest community project ever attempted in the 43 years he has lived in Chiloquin.

“This is big,” Rademacher said, speaking to the Chiloquin students as much as the adults. “The real bonus on the partnership is that the entire community has been involved for the kids and the families. So you guys are going to be able to go out here and have recess. And then your family is going to be able to come over, your folks, maybe shoot some hoops.”

The project is also not the only new construction going on around Chiloquin schools. A school district project to upgrade the Chiloquin Junior/Senior High School track and put down a turf field was well underway and should be completed in the spring. That project is partially funded by a $500,000 donation from the Klamath Tribes. 

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