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Trust for Public Land to provide big upgrades for Madras Elementary, Ontario schoolyards

Aerial view of Madras Elementary schoolyard
Trust for Public Land
Aerial view of Madras Elementary schoolyard

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Trust for Public Land, in partnership with the Jefferson County and Ontario school districts, announced Tuesday the selection of Madras and Alameda Elementary schools to become part of the Oregon Rural Community Schoolyards Program.

The two schools will undergo construction efforts to upgrade playground equipment and outdoor facilities to make the space more accessible for students and families.

TPL’s Oregon Rural Community Schoolyard Program is an effort dedicated to building community, health, climate resilience, education, and a nature-based focus in Oregon’s schoolyards. The goal of the Program is to create a replicable model and toolkit for other communities to undertake rural community schoolyard projects throughout Oregon and beyond.

“Parks are essential to safe, healthy communities and our Rural Community Schoolyards Program is helping to ensure everyone in Oregon has access to these spaces by utilizing existing space,” said Kristin Kovalik, Oregon Director of Land Conservation at Trust for Public Land. “Trust for Public Land is thrilled to continue prioritizing community, health, climate resilience, and education into Oregon’s schoolyards.”

Alameda Elementary School is used by the entire county of Malheur for sports and recreation. Residents from Ontario, Nyssa, Vale, and Fruitland all utilize the Alameda Schoolyard, this project has the potential to positively affect the entire community.

“We are so very excited to bring this opportunity to the Ontario community and Alameda Elementary students and families,” said Andrea Buchholz, Principal at Alameda Elementary School. “Initially when information was received about this potential funding it appeared too good to be true! Upon further inquiries and multiple conversations we realized this project could be a game changer for our students and community. Alameda was one of many sites selected as a finalist. With the input from a few community stakeholders and the enthusiasm we held for this project, Alameda was awarded the Project funding! We look forward to the transformation of our schoolyard over the course of the next year. We want this project to serve not only our school but the community and welcome your input!”

This schoolyard program is unique because it focused on rural communities, which like Madras Elementary are often underfunded and underserved. Seventy percent of Madras residents live within a 10-minute walk of Madras Elementary School and 20% of the population lives below the poverty line.

“We are excited to partner with Trust for Public Land on this schoolyard project. Our goal is that students flourish here, and we believe improving the school playground area and building a dynamic green space for the community will help our students flourish. Our community will benefit from this project as we try to connect more Madras residents to being active and enjoying the outdoors,” said Principal Chris Wyland of Madras Elementary School.

The first schoolyard completed through the program, at Chiloquin Elementary, was under-resourced, with few options for safe and healthy play. It now includes walking paths, a covered basketball court, outdoor classroom, artwork and restored meadow designed by students and the community. It also incorporates plants and other features that require less water to maintain, saving water and helping to increase native wildlife habitat.

The project could not have been completed without support and funding from numerous donors, community members, foundations and public grants. Roundhouse Foundation was especially integral in providing funding for these schoolyards.

“We are pleased to be able to support the Oregon Rural Community Schoolyards Program – a program that we’ve already seen make a huge difference in Chiloquin,” says the executive director of the Roundhouse Foundation, Erin Borla. “Programs like these are indicative of the spirit of rural communities – but the connections, opportunities, and financial support for projects like these are so often reserved for more metropolitan spaces. We are pleased to help make rural communities a priority.”

Nationwide, Trust for Public Land has transformed more than 300 underused schoolyards into nature-rich parks designed to address inequities in education, health, and climate impacts. Every one of our 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 new research from Trust for Public Land, 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.

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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.

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