Organizers say they hope to include larger play structures and increase accessibility for the entire community.

CONNECTION PHOTO: HANNAH RANK - Paul Higgins, co-chair of the Rieke Elementary playground committee, stands in front of the school's existing playground structure. His committee wants to expand to draw in the larger community.If all goes according to plan, the Rieke Elementary School playground will be getting a facelift for the 2017-18 school year.

Alongside a renovation of the adjacent recreation field by Portland Parks & Recreation, the Rieke Parent-Teacher Association is spearheading an upgrade and expansion of the current playground to include larger, modernized play structures and increased accessibility.

Paul Higgins, Rieke PTA vice president, said though the school community has been looking to upgrade the playground for a while, the timing seemed right this year when they considered the already-scheduled field upgrades.

"For the past three or four years, they've been trying to get a plan in place to get a playground and it's never really gotten off the ground. But this year, it just makes sense," Higgins said. "Now we've got a lot of energy, a lot of excitement behind it, and there's a lot of parents that are committed to making this thing happen."

The PTA's playground committee is currently in the planning and fundraising stage.

Higgins says his team just decided to use a landscape architect to make a master plan for the area. The plans should be completed by mid-February

The committee is also raising money for the project and hopes to receive funding from grants and individual donations. The goal is to raise $125,000.

Portland Parks & Recreation's simultaneous Rieke Field project will entail removing the existing turf feld and replacing it with a new synthetic turf "specific for soccer and lacrosse," according to the department's website.

Other upgrades include improving field drainage, installing drinking fountains and temporary restrooms, and improving perimeter pathways to increase ADA accessibility to the field.

Drawing in greater Hillsdale

One of the main goals behind the new playground is to be more inclusive to the surrounding Hillsdale community. To that end, the playground committee has proposed renaming the space "Hillsdale Community Playground at Rieke Elementary."

Rieke Elementary's existing playground structure has slides, rings and a few jungle gym elements best equipped for its student demographic of 5- to 10-year-olds. Higgins said the size of the current equipment precludes older kids from playing in the park.

He noted that plenty of older kids may visit the park for a variety of reasons — waiting during their sibling's sports practice, attending the Hillsdale farmers market, etc.

Higgins said the playground expansion would include structures suitable for a wider age range.

With the proposed upgrades, Higgins hopes the playground's increased options will make more community members feel inclined to play there.

"In essence we're building this whole playground," Higgins said, "because we want to bring the community together, have options for people who don't necessarily go to the school."

If Rieke PTA reaches its fundraising and design goals, the playground could be operational as early as August 2017.

Contact Southwest Community Connection reporter Hannah Rank at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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