USDA Contributes $250,000 to Funland Playground Rebuild Project

Posted: March 1, 2021, 12:00 am

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program, working through Umatilla Electric Cooperative, has invested $250,000 to help rebuild Hermiston’s Funland playground.

On May 10, 2019, a fire destroyed half of a popular children’s play area at Hermiston’s Butte Park. “We are proud and excited to be able to leverage these USDA funds to help further the return of Funland, and we commend all who planned and built this worthwhile community project.” said UEC General Manager and CEO, Robert Echenrode.

Said USDA Rural Development Acting State Director for Oregon Jill Rees, “The broad support community members, the town, and utility provider have demonstrated for rebuilding shows the importance residents place on healthy outdoor activities for local families and children.”

“I am proud to team up with the leadership at Umatilla Electric Cooperative and Hermiston leaders who continue to build safe and healthy spaces. In challenging times like these, it’s more important than ever to invest in public playgrounds because they provide safe, fun gathering places for families and friends to enjoy the outdoors free of charge.” said U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden.

When repaid, the money will be added to UEC’s Revolving Loan Fund operated by the cooperative and financed through prior REDLG awards, which UEC uses to support local community facility projects. The funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.

Funland Park is the fourth USDA REDLG project UEC has backed since the inception of our Revolving Loan Fund. As of mid-2020, the Revolving Loan Fund has made 13 additional loans to area businesses, totaling $1,627,250 from the original three projects.

The playground structures were rebuilt using modern, non-combustible, and vandalism-resistant materials to improve the safety and longevity of the new playground.

The local community donated $496,000 toward the remaining costs of this project. Additional funding was provided by the City of Hermiston and an insurance settlement from the fire. UEC also provided assistance with the construction.

U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz said, “I want to thank the U.S. Department of Agriculture for providing a rural development grant of $250,000 to the reconstruction of the Funland Playground in Hermiston’s Butte Park. Combined with the efforts of Umatilla Electric Cooperative and the generous donations of many, this grant will help restore a source of great memories and activities for the community’s youth.”

The installation team is lead by Jason Barron and Brian Fricke both are Hermiston Parks and Recreation staff certified in Playground Safety and Installation.

This project will help retain three park operations and maintenance positions with the city. An additional position will be created to provide increased security and maintenance at Butte Park. Overall, the restoration of this community playground will improve the quality of life for residents of this rural community of 17,423 people.

“Many of the play structures are custom and will only be found in Hermiston. People will come to Hermiston just to experience Funland, making it a destination amenity,” said Hermiston Parks and Recreation Director Larry Fetter.

“Especially in the middle of a deadly pandemic that is forcing Oregonians to make countless sacrifices, our families and our children need fun and safe places to play outside,” said U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley. “I’m grateful that this funding is headed to Hermiston to help rebuild Funland, and I will continue working to make sure kids and families have what they need to thrive in every corner of our state.”

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing, community facilities such as schools, public safety, and health care facilities; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.