The Funland Playground rebuild project in Hermiston got a big shot in the arm from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The USDA Rural Development announced today that it is investing $250,000 to help rebuild the playground that was destroyed in a fire last May.
“Repairing damage from a fire can strain the finances of a small, rural community,” said USDA Rural Development Acting State Director for Oregon Jill Rees. “The broad support community members, the town, and utility provider have demonstrated for rebuilding shows the importance residents place on healthy outdoor activities for local families and children.”
Umatilla Electric Cooperative (UEC) used a USDA grant to help with the Funland rebuild. The grant was awarded through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) Program, which provides grants and zero-interest loans to rural utilities that they in turn pass through to local businesses, nonprofits, or public bodies for projects to create and retain employment in rural areas.
Under this program, UEC made a zero-interest loan to help finance the project. When repaid, the money will be added to a revolving loan fund operated by the cooperative and financed through prior REDLG awards, which UEC uses to support local community facility projects. The funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.
The playground structures are being rebuilt using modern, non-combustible, and vandalism-resistant materials to improve the safety and longevity of the new playground.
“I want to thank the U.S. Department of Agriculture for providing a rural development grant of $250,000 to the re-construction of the Funland Playground in Hermston’s Butte Park,” said U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario). “Combined with the efforts of Umatilla Electric Cooperative and the generous donations of many, this grant will help restore a source of great memories and activities for the community’s youth.”
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden said the rebuild project shows the community’s character and commitment to quality-of-life issues.
“Oregonians prove time and again their resilience and commitment in the face of adversity, and these federal dollars are greatly needed to restore a much-beloved playground,” Wyden said. “I am proud to team up with the leadership at Umatilla Electric Cooperative and Hermiston leaders who continue to build safe and healthy spaces. In challenging times like these, it’s more important than ever to invest in public playgrounds because they provide safe, fun gathering places for families and friends to enjoy the outdoors free of charge.”
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley said the playground is needed more than ever.
“Especially in the middle of a deadly pandemic that is forcing Oregonians to make countless sacrifices, our families and our children need fun and safe places to play outside,” said Merkley. “I’m grateful that this funding is headed to Hermiston to help rebuild Funland, and I will continue working to make sure kids and families have what they need to thrive in every corner of our state.”
Robert Echenrode, UEC general manager and CEO, said the cooperative is glad to be part of the rebuild project.
“We are proud and excited to be able to leverage these USDA funds to help further the return of Funland, and we commend all who planned and built this worthwhile community project,” he said.
The Hermiston community donated $496,000 toward the remaining costs of this project. Additional funding was provided by the city of Hermiston and an insurance settlement from the fire. UEC also provided assistance with the construction. The Good Shepherd Community Health Foundation also provided a $50,000 grant for the playground.
This project will help retain three park operations and maintenance positions with the city. An additional position will be created to provide increased security and maintenance at Butte Park.
Funland is expected to be dedicated during Memorial Day weekend.