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Prineville community comes together to build wheelchair-accessible covered wagons

Bend's Mtn. View HS welding students also helped; wagons to debut at Prineville's annual Lighted Christmas Parade

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) — As part of the master planning process for the Barnes Butte Recreation Area, the City of Prineville enlisted Barnes Butte Elementary School students as “junior land use planners.”

About 100 first-graders spent weeks on intertwined lessons studying maps and paying visits to the 620 acres and discussing how to make Barnes Butte a place worth visiting. The students’ ideas resulted in the community’s first all-inclusive covered wagons.

“We had a wheelchair-bound student who wasn’t able to participate, because the area was too difficult for them to maneuver around,” said Merrilee Smith, a first-grade teacher at Barnes Butte Elementary.

The students approached the City of Prineville with the idea of finding a way for every child and community member to access the Barnes Butte Recreation Area.

“The students inspired us to find a way to make our community better and more accessible for everyone,” said City Engineer Eric Klann. “We took their idea and ran with it.”

In the spring of 2019, Klann began reaching out to community members to help sponsor and build the wagons, to be used at events throughout the county. Completion of the wagons was delayed due to COVID-19 and supply shortages. On Saturday, the two wagons will make their debut at the annual Lighted Christmas Parade.

We are blessed to live in a community with people who are generous and able to help,” Klann said. “Including very capable welding students from Crook County and Mountain View High School (in Bend), who designed and built the wagons.”

The wagons are just one more way Prineville and the Crook County School District have nurtured a symbiotic relationship, in which student learning opportunities create public works for the community’s good. Community partnerships to enhance education were a key focus of legislators working on the Student Success Act, and Prineville and Crook County are blazing a trail.

“Working with students, local businesses, and organizations to build two wheelchair-accessible wagons is something our community can be proud of,” Prineville Mayor Jason Beebe said.

The wagons were made possible through a partnership between the city, Crook County, Mountain View High School, Crook County High School, Barnes Butte Elementary School, the Crook County Fairgrounds, and community donations from The Ford Family Foundation, Shelk Foundation, Parr Lumber, and  Rosendin.

The wagons will be housed at the Crook County Fairgrounds and used for community events.

Article Topic Follows: Crook County

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