CHILOQUIN, Ore. – The Trust for Public Land, along with a coalition of partners and funders, has broken ground on what plans to be a vibrant, new schoolyard to the community of Chiloquin. The project aims to upgrade the existing playground equipment and outdoor facilities at Chiloquin Elementary school.
“Parks and green spaces provide an opportunity to heal, and the green schoolyard in Chiloquin is an example of how green spaces and public parks can be designed to improve community health equity,” said Kristin Kovalik, Oregon Director of Land Conservation at The Trust for Public Land. “It’s an honor to work with the Chiloquin community to create a safe, fun and educational outdoor space where residents can recreate and connect with nature.”
The schoolyard at Chiloquin Elementary has been under resourced, with few options for safe and healthy play. The school serves 180 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, and one hundred percent of students qualify for free lunch. Involvement from students and the community was integral to the design for the new space, which will include walking paths, a covered basketball court, outdoor classroom, artwork and restored meadow.
“We are very proud of the achievements of this group and look forward to giving our students and community a safe, and fun outdoor space,” said Rita Hepper, principal of Chiloquin Elementary.
The space will also incorporate plants and other features that require less water to maintain, saving water and helping to increase native wildlife habitat. Nearly every summer, local water use is limited to reserve water for the lakes that provide habitat for endangered suckerfish and more than 350 species of birds.
The Trust for Public Land worked with numerous partners including Chiloquin Visions in Progress, Willamette Partnership the Klamath Tribal Council, teachers, students, and Chiloquin families to develop and implement the community’s vision for a vibrant, green, and welcoming schoolyard. The school board has also approved use of the new space after school hours and on weekends, which helps address open space needs.
The Chiloquin community has been especially hard hit from increased wildfire destruction. Earlier this year, the Bootleg fire caused evacuations and road closures across the area. Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency in June as the wildfire threats spread across the state. Last fall, the Two Four Two wildfire devastated the area and forced the evacuation of more than 600 homes. The elementary school was used as a distribution center for food, water, and supplies donated by the Klamath Tribes. School staff and volunteers distributed food and helped neighbors extinguish fires and staff was recently recognized by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) with a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol for their efforts to help the community.
“This is a good day for the students and staff of Chiloquin Elementary School,” said Art Ochoa. “Perhaps there are some students who will remember this playground with fondness, with their own memories, as so many who have attended school here. I hope that one day a student, or students will speak of the many people who invested time and dedication for this project. Congratulations to all who have contributed to the hope that this new playground brings to the children and community of Chiloquin.”
The project could not have been completed without support and funding from numerous donors, community members, Foundations and public grants. These gifts inspire others to join this important effort and leverage the funds needed to complete the schoolyard renovation.
Nationwide, the Trust for Public Land has transformed more than 300 underused schoolyards into nature-rich parks designed to address inequities in education, health, and climate impacts. Every one of our community schoolyard transformations includes agreements between a school district and other local agencies to allow the community to use the space when school is closed. According to new research from The Trust for Public Land, open access to all public schoolyards across the country during non-school hours would put a park within a 10-minute walk of more than 19.6 million people, including 5.2 million children, who currently lack access.