New Sodaville park a true community effort

By Sarah Brown

Lebanon Local

Peggy Bishop remembers how,  when she was a kid growing up in Sodaville, she and her friends would entertain themselves by riding bikes or tee-peeing houses.

That’s because there wasn’t much else to do in the small community. But, as of this fall, local youngsters now have a playground to absorb that childhood vitality.

VOLUNTEERS RAISE part of a new play structure for the park. (contributed photo)

Bishop, along with other volunteers from Sodaville and other localities, helped install a new park playground this summer for the City of Sodaville.

City administrators secured a $225,000 grant from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to develop a plot of land into what is now called the Soda Springs Community Center Park.

“We need a place for the kids to do something instead of being on their phones and getting into trouble,” Bishop said. “It’s something we probably wished we’d have had when we were kids growing up here.”

The playground, located at the corner of Sodaville Mountain Home Road and Main Street, includes a swing set, horseshoe pits, a play structure, new restrooms, and a basketball court that was previously installed by a grant through the Ford Family Foundation.

The basketball court has already received a fair amount of usage from local kids, and it didn’t take long to draw more in to test out the new play structures.

“We’ve had kids on here while we’re working,” said Suzie Hibbert, mayor. “They’ve been out here just as soon as we said it was open.”

The property, which includes the original Country Store, formerly belonged to Lebanon Area Habitat for Humanity, but the city traded it for three city-owned properties.

Habitat is getting ready to build housing for qualified applicants on those properties, Hibbert said.

“It was a good trade for us and them,” she said.

Plans for what to do with the old store are still in discussion among City Council members and the community, but the cemented patio area can be used for barbecues, she said.

“We did a rehab project on our other park in 2014, hoping we’d get people to show up over there,” noted Stan Smith, public works director. “It’s a great little park for picnics, where you don’t have a lot of activities because of the hillside. When this property became available, we felt this would be ideal for a children’s playground, as well as for adults.”

SODA SPRINGS Community Park’s new basketball court overlooks the city’s developing playground. Photo by Sarah Brown

Hibbert expressed appreciation for the efforts of Judy Smith, Stan Smith, councilor Jeff Hensley, Link Up Vets, Oregon III Percent, outside volunteers, and Sodaville residents who volunteered their time and labor to make the playground a reality.

“As far as the city goes, we’re really happy with what’s happened here,” Smith said. “It’s not just that it’s a park for the kids; it really did bring the community together and get some people out here to help.”