To vote online

To vote in the Trail Blazers Moda Assist online parks poll, visit www.nba.com/blazers/assist

The playground at Redmond’s Baker Park is showing every one of its 42 years.

It features a metal teeter-totter, aging wooden towers and an extra-tall slide that gets hot on summer days.

“I wouldn’t want my 2-year-old up there,” said Sarah Bergstrom, an employee with the city’s parks department. “It’s really tall.”

The playground also includes features like a metal chain ladder that isn’t designed for children with disabilities.

The city is looking to build a new play structure as part of improvements at the park, located at 1532 SW 17th St., west of Obsidian Middle School. And it could get help from one of the biggest names in Oregon sports if an online vote goes its way.

The Portland Trail Blazers are partnering with Moda Health to award thousands in funding toward a new or improved playground in Oregon. Baker Park is one of three parks in the Moda Assist program online vote, which started Feb. 20 and continues through March 19.

This marks the fifth year the National Basketball Association team has partnered with Moda on the program, which started shortly after Moda bought naming rights to the Trail Blazers’ Rose Quarter arena in 2013.

Redmond is competing against Roger Jordan Park in Dallas and Davis Park in Gresham.

This is the first time Redmond has been a finalist in the online poll, though Bend’s Eagle Park was up for money in 2016 before losing out to Fichtner-Mainwaring Park in Medford. Karis Stoudamire-Phillips, Moda’s corporate social responsibility manager, said the company, which has an office in Bend, likes the area, but wanted to go to a different city.

“We wanted to go back to Central Oregon, and we thought Redmond was a good choice,” she said.

Moda and the Trail Blazers each donate $5 for every assist the team has during the season to the selected park project, which Stoudamire-Phillips said adds up to around $20,000. Through 58 games, the Trail Blazers have 1,108 assists, according to their website.

“The whole focus was on the community, not just putting our name on a building,” Stoudamire-Phillips said in a phone interview.

The Trail Blazers and Moda sponsor the contest as a way to emphasize the importance of play for children, while helping introduce playgrounds that are accessible for children of all abilities, she said. They work with Playcraft Systems, a Grants Pass playground equipment company.

The program was inspired by Harper’s Playground, which opened in 2012 in a North Portland park, Stoudamire-Phillips said. It was named for Harper Goldberg, a young girl who was unable to use many play structures because of a disability.

With Quince Park improvements finished last year and a new $86,000 play structure project at Hayden Park expected to be completed this week, Baker Park becomes the prime Redmond park needing upgrades, said Annie McVay, the city’s parks and administration division manager. The Trail Blazers and Moda approached the city about the contest, and McVay volunteered Baker Park as the best fit.

“They came to us and asked if we were interested, and, of course, we jumped at the opportunity,” she said.

In addition to the money from the Trail Blazers, Bergstrom is applying for a grant to get money for Baker Park improvements from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. McVay said the city wants to replace the park’s irrigation system and put a walking path with exercise equipment around the park, along with the new play structure.

The price tag on the project could exceed the $350,000 cost for Quince Park because of the need for new irrigation, McVay said. The city would need to pay for costs above what the grant and the Trail Blazers don’t cover.

Stoudamire-Phillips said the program typically starts construction over the summer, so the Trail Blazers can have a ribbon cutting before the 2018-19 NBA season. But McVay said the city wouldn’t be able to build the new play structure until 2019 because the irrigation system would need to go in first.

The parks budget is expected to remain flat as the city considers using its general fund to pay for several new police officers while it waits to see if voters approve a public safety fee to be added to utility bills, McVay said. So any extra money the parks can get is helpful.

The Gresham park is this year’s nominee from the Portland area. Stoudamire-Phillips said they always allow people to vote on a Portland-area park, but it doesn’t always win.

Along with the Medford park, Culley Park in Portland and Sunset Park in Hermiston won fan votes to receive new playground funding from the Trail Blazers and Moda. Birnie Park in La Grande received the park in the program’s first year, before the online vote was implemented.

“People always think Portland is going to win because they have the most people,” Stoudamire-Phillips said. “They’ve only won one time.”

McVay is hopeful that trend continues.

“It’s going to be fun,” she said. “Everybody gets really excited. It will be interesting to see how Central Oregon competes.”

Julie Gilbertson, a first-grade teacher at John Tuck Elementary, noticed the Trail Blazers’ web page promoting the contest two weeks ago. She said the vote is a great way for the community to come together.

“We have such a beautiful town,” Gilbertson said in an email. “I understand the need to keep the integrity of some of the original structures in Redmond. However, if this park entices more children to play outside and can reach more people of all abilities, than it is worth it.”

People can vote once per day, per device.

The city also plans to print posters to place at gathering places like Wild Ride Brewing and Jersey Boys Pizzeria to increase interest. McVay wants to get the word out about the need to improve Baker Park.

“We’re going to do a lot of improvements out there, but one of them is to have the play structure suit more ages and abilities than it does now,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

Correction: This story originally said people can vote once, but the city has since corrected that to once per day on a device.

19561091