Children of all ages and abilities were soaking up the sun on the playground and on the basketball court Wednesday afternoon as Hermiston celebrated a newly revitalized Sunset Park.
A central piece of the new playground, which was paid for by a grant from Moda Health and the Portland Trail Blazers, has yet to arrive, but several pieces — including swings, climbing equipment, giant plastic drums and two large bears for sitting and climbing — have joined the new basketball court installed last year after the city doubled the neighborhood park’s size.
City councilor Doug Primmer described the online voting competition that led to the grant for the new playground during the ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday. Parks in Portland, Tillamook and Hermiston were up for consideration for the grant, and many residents voted over and over again each day to help Hermiston pull ahead of Portland.
“In February an epic battle ensued between the biggest city on the west side — Portland — and the biggest on the east — Hermiston,” he said. “... When the dust settled, the clear winner was the children of Hermiston.”
Ryan and Christina Schaan were some of the voters who helped make it happen, and were on hand with their son Cameron, 8, on Wednesday to help celebrate.
“It’s fun to see stuff like this go on in Hermiston,” Ryan said. “You don’t see it happen very often so we wanted to support it.”
Christina said she liked the variety of the equipment, including pieces like the drums and other noise makers that are accessible to children with disabilities.
“It makes it more versatile,” she said.
Rebecca, Natalia and Camille LaBelle also voted in the online contest and came out Wednesday to see the fruits of their labors. Rebecca said their family frequents all the parks in Hermiston, and Natalia said she was glad to see Sunset Park expanded and improved with equipment that seemed safer than the old playground.
Camille, 10, said she thought the giant bears were “cool” and fun to climb. She was one of about 40 children participating in basketball clinics at the park on Wednesday, hosted by the Trail Blazers.
Matt Dietrich, lead youth development coach for the Blazers, said he enjoys hosting clinics around the state to help the Blazers’ youngest fans get active and have a positive experience with basketball.
“I can’t believe I get paid to do this,” he said after one of the half-hour clinics that involved passing drills, defensive drills, shooting drills and basketball pointers.
Dietrich worked with the kids on good defensive stances, accurate shooting, effective passing and quick hands and feet.
“The most important thought of the day today was really about building healthy communities, to get them active,” he said. “We did as many active drills as possible.”
Christa Stout, the Blazers’ vice president of social responsibility, said children today are less active than they have ever been, and thanked the city and its partners for helping create a park that will help children in the community be more active. Robin Richardson, senior vice president for Moda Health, told the crowd at the park that the Moda Assist grant program was a “cool example” of how the Blazers and Moda work together to help children.
“Healthy kids need places to play,” he said.
The Hermiston playground is the third paid for by the Moda Assist program. Each year Moda Health and the Trail Blazers choose three projects in cities around Oregon and sponsor an online voting contest. The city with the most votes gets $10 per assist made by the Blazers during their season. Last winter businesses like Smitty’s Ace Hardware and organizations like Altrusa helped parks and recreation director Larry Fetter publicize the contest, rallying more than 19,000 votes for Hermiston.
Contact Jade McDowell at email@example.com or 541-564-4536.