The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is investing $250,000 to help rebuild a playground in Hermiston, Ore., that was destroyed in a fire, announced USDA Rural Development Acting State Director for Oregon Jill Rees today.
"Repairing damage from a fire can strain the finances of a small, rural community," said 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."
On May 10, 2019, a fire destroyed half of a popular children's play area at Hermiston's Butte Park.
The Umatilla Electric Cooperative (UEC) used a USDA grant to help rebuild Funland Playground. The grant was awarded through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) Program, which provides grants and zero-interest loans to rural utilities that they in turn pass through to local businesses, nonprofits, or public bodies for projects to create and retain employment in rural areas.
Under this program, UEC made a zero-interest loan to help finance the repairs. When repaid, the money will be added to a 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.
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.
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.
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. Learn more at www.rd.usda.gov/or.