Chiloquin Green Schoolyard Project Ready To Break Ground

Groundbreaking for a $1.3 million project that enhances and redesigns outdoor space at Chiloquin Elementary School could happen as soon as October.

Thanks to community collaboration and support, organizers of the Chiloquin Green Schoolyard project have nearly all the funds necessary to build a new outdoor space that incorporates a playground area, a covered outdoor basketball court, interpretative walking paths, and community garden spaces at the elementary school.

Project supporters gathered Sept. 2 for an update. Pictured are from left to right: Art Ochoa, community project coordinator; Hannah Levine, Chiloquin Community Builders; Steve Johnson, KCSD safety and risk manager; Cathy Stuhr, Chiloquin Community Builders; Barton Robison, Willamette Partnership; Roberta Frost, The Klamath Tribes; Rita Hepper, Chiloquin Elementary principal; Janelle Emard, Chiloquin Elementary vice principal; Glen Szymoniak, superintendent of the Klamath County School District; and Gayle Hatcher, The Klamath Tribes. In front are John Rademacher, KCSD school board member; and Dennis Zullo, KCSD maintenance and projects supervisor.

The new schoolyard will impact the area and its youth for years to come, said Rita Hepper, principal of Chiloquin Elementary and a member of the project team.

“This is a huge deal, not just for our kids but for our entire community,” she said. “This means that it matters. That this place matters, and we’re stepping up. It will make a difference.”

This is a rendering of design plans for the Chiloquin Green Schoolyard project at Chiloquin Elementary School.

Hepper was among more than a dozen project supporters who gathered earlier this month for an update from Barton Robison of Willamette Partnership, an environmental nonprofit that helps facilitate projects that improve the health of Oregon residents. The outdoor gathering at the home of KCSD school board member John Rademacher also was a celebration of the submission of the final grant needed to complete all aspects of the green schoolyard project.

“This just speaks to the love you have for your community, and your dedication to your children,” Robison told the gathering. “I want to give a very special thanks to Art Ochoa for being our community coordinator and for the work he put on the ground here.”

Ochoa outlined plans that include working with a local artist to create a mural on an outside wall of the school as well as having students design artwork for murals on the covered outdoor basketball court. The walking paths will highlight native plants and pollinators and include interpretative signs, some with native Klamath words.

“Everyone is pretty excited about it,” Ochoa said as he thanked community members who have helped over the past two years. “It’s been amazing to me. Whenever I called and had an idea or needed someone to help, no one said ‘no.’ This would not be possible without our community.”

Several members of the group highlighted the teamwork and connections that made a project like this possible in the small town.

“I think those connections really contributed to our success,” Rademacher said. “We know each other, we know what to expect, and how to work together.”

Recent funding from The Klamath Tribes ensured that construction can start on the project, and a general contractor has been hired to work with Klamath County School District’s projects supervisor. Groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for October but that date won’t be finalized until the city of Chiloquin approves the plans.

The project is a collaboration between Chiloquin Elementary School, Chiloquin City Council, Chiloquin FIRST, The Klamath Tribes, Chiloquin Visions in Progress, Ford Institute for Community Building, Healthy Klamath/Blue Zones Project, Oregon Health & Outdoors Initiative, the Trust for Public Land, and the Klamath County School District.

Some of the project’s larger donors ($1,500 and more) include: L.L Bean Community Award, Ann J. and William Swindells Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, Roundhouse Foundation, the BNSF Railway Foundation, Megan G. Colwell, FE2 Fund, Gordon Elwood Foundation, Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation, Chiloquin Elementary School, Nurre Family Foundation, The Klamath Tribes, The Trust for Public Land Impact Fund, Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, Chiloquin Family Community Education, Schapp, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen, Nancy Nordoff, the Community of Chiloquin, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Meyer Memorial Trust, National Wildlife Federation, Lora and Martin Kelley Family Foundation, and Elizabeth Bishop.

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