Riverside Park Playground Replacement: How, Why and With Who?

By on Monday, January 23rd, 2023 in More Top Stories Northeastern Oregon News

LA GRANDE – The La Grande Parks and Recreation Department previously announced the planned replacement of the now twenty-year-old Riverside Park Playground, and that the public will be invited to help oversee, fund and design the new project. With the public discussion meeting scheduled for February 7, Parks and Rec Director Stu Spence has provided some additional insight into the project, including the reasoning for the replacement.

According to Spence, the playground is simply nearing the end of its useful life expectancy. As improvements to the park were listed as a top priority for the public in last year’s parks master plan, a committee was formed comprising members of the original playground project. This committee hired consultants from the original manufacturer to inspect the playground and ensure its safety. 

According to the consultants, the playground does not possess any immediate hazards or safety concerns though will need to be replaced or overhauled within the next 2-3 years. Playground designs of this type are considered twenty-year products and Riverside’s is beginning to show its age. As for why full replacement was chosen instead of an overhaul to the current playground, it came down to a matter of short-term vs long-term cost, as Spence stated:

“The repair was in the eighty-to-ninety-thousand-dollar range and the new is potentially in the one hundred to one hundred and fifty range, so the committee felt like it made sense to just invest a little bit more and get another twenty-to-thirty years vs another only five-to-ten with the repair.”

As far as funding goes, the project will primarily be funded through a combination of grants, donations and fundraising with the City of La Grande potentially providing a partial match for grants. Spence estimated that roughly sixty percent of the cost could be covered by grants while the local funds will need to cover the remaining forty percent. The exact type and ratio of funding, however, will be decided with the volunteer committee after it’s established on February 7, with Spence noting:

“We don’t know what that dollar amount is yet because the committee we’re establishing on February 7 at the public meeting at the library, we will start to talk about designs and costs and desires and get from the bigger group to a smaller group of committed individuals that want to raise money, help with the design, write grants, do community outreach, etc.”

The committee themselves will be a crucial aspect of the project. In addition to organizing funding, committee members will also work with vendors and contractors to help flesh out the design of the new playground and ensure it includes, as described by Spence, “features and amenities that the community wants.” 

As a reminder, the public meeting will be held February 7 at 6:00 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Library’s community room. Members of the public are encouraged to attend to provide feedback, be informed about the project and volunteer for the new playground committee. Again, committee members will be playing a major role in the playground’s design and ensure it reflects public wants and needs. As reflected by Spence:

“I want to leave it up to the community. I want it to continue to be a destination playground, just a little bit bigger and better than all the others. It’s always been a destination, it’s the signature playground in town, people care deeply about it.”