Trust for Public Land, Chiloquin Community Celebrate Opening of New Community Schoolyard
Today, Trust for Public Land is proud to celebrate with the Chiloquin community for the opening of the new community schoolyard at Chiloquin Elementary. The renovations to the schoolyard will allow students and the entire community increased access to green space.
“Parks and green spaces are so important for not only reducing impacts from wildfires and extreme heat, but they offer opportunities for people to exercise and gather together,” said Kristin Kovalik, Oregon Director of Land Conservation at Trust for Public Land. “We’re proud to have worked with the Chiloquin community, to create a safe, fun and educational outdoor space where residents can connect with nature and each other and we hope this can serve as a model of how other communities can utilize these types of existing spaces.”
The schoolyard at Chiloquin Elementary has been under resourced, with few options for safe and healthy play. The school serves over 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 now features walking paths, a covered basketball court, outdoor classroom, artwork and restored meadow.
“I’m so proud to be part of a community that comes together for our kids,” said Rita Hepper, principal of Chiloquin Elementary. “This was a real joint effort that is going to make a lasting difference for our kids. Each student has been beyond excited as they’ve seen the playground coming together. More than that, it shows our students, that they matter, that people care about them, and that they truly make a difference in their communities.”
The space also incorporated 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.
TPL 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.
“Chiloquin Visions in Progress (CVIP) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit community benefit organization formed in 1995 and serves the greater Chiloquin area through projects that result in a healthy social, economic, natural, and cultural environment,” said John Rademacher, Chiloquin Visions in Progress President. “We were very pleased when presented the opportunity to partner with local and state organizations to help fulfill our mission to support ideas and activities that foster community prosperity, health, and well-being in the greater Chiloquin area. Best of all, it will provide our children and their families with a fantastic safe place to have fun.”
“This is a very exciting day for the students of Chiloquin Elementary School and the entire community,” said Art Ochoa. “Watching young and old come out today to enjoy this new playground after all the hard work put in to create this safe green space is inspiring to see and I can’t wait for generations to come to feel that same joy.”
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.
TPL is working across the country, and specifically in rural Oregon, to help utilize schoolyard space to increase access to the outdoors, build community, and improve health, climate resiliency, and educational opportunities. Through the Oregon Rural Community Schoolyard Program, TPL hopes to increase capacity and partnerships by transforming schoolyards in at least three Oregon communities by the end of 2024 and for Oregon’s community schoolyard program to become the model for more equitable rural communities.
Nationwide, TPL has transformed more than 300 underutilized schoolyards into nature-rich parks designed to address inequities in education, health, and climate impacts. Every one of the 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 research from TPL, 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.
About Trust for Public Land
Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres of public land, created more than 5,000 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $84 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected more than 9 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit tpl.org.