By Cameron Rasmusson
For the city of Ponderay, the Field of Dreams park project has been years in the making. Likewise, Sandpoint residents have pursued the development of a recreation center for more than a decade.
Both projects took a significant step forward last week when the LOR Foundation announced it proposed grants toward their development. LOR stands for “liveability, opportunity, responsibility” according to the organization’s website.
The foundation, which works to improve rural quality of life in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming, supports a $100,000 grant for the development of the Field of Dreams initiative and is prepared to commit an additional $400,000 as it advances. The organization has also proposed a $500,000 grant to purchase a portion of the University of Idaho’s Boyer property, where the city of Sandpoint hopes to build a recreation center.
Ponderay officials have long considered the Field of Dreams to be the key for its ambition to create robust parks and recreation opportunities within the town. Local officials envision the 50-acre site off U.S. 95 will one day hold multiple soccer fields, baseball diamonds and other recreation attractions. Ponderay purchased the property in 2011 and formed a parks and recreation committee months later to pursue development opportunities.
“It is impossible to come up with the words to express our appreciation for what the LOR Foundation has given our community,” said Ponderay Mayor Steve Geiger in a press release. “We have been trying to come up with a vision for the Field of Dreams property, and now, with a generous gift from LOR, we will be able to turn the dream into reality. Our area and community as a whole has desperately needed a recreation facility for all ages and for many decades. This project, in addition to future plans for a potential recreation center in Sandpoint will only benefit our communities as a whole.”
Sandpoint residents have been just as tenacious in pursuing opportunities for a recreation center. However, there were few likely properties suitable for the project until the University of Idaho announced its intentions to sell its 75-acre property located off Boyer Avenue. Originally dedicated to agricultural science, the property later became a beloved recreation site for cross-country skiers, cyclocross fans and other outdoor activities. Sandpoint officials hope to maintain that tradition with a recreation center on the southern end of the property.
“The city is incredibly grateful to the LOR Foundation,” said Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad in a press release. “This extraordinary gift will seed Sandpoint’s long-time vision for a community recreation center. We hope to acquire approximately 25 acres to be designated for a recreation center and will continue our efforts to pursue other partnership opportunities for the entire 75-acre property in order to see the broader community vision realized.”
According to LaMonte Guillory, chief communications officer of the LOR Foundation, the two Bonner County projects represent a perfect encapsulation of the foundation’s mission, which is to increase quality of life in small western communities.
“At LOR we talk about how we can strengthen the livability of a community,” said Guillory in a press release. “What makes a family want to thrive and grow in a town? What is important to residents? With recreation resonating among residents, we see it is a component of livability in the greater Ponderay and Sandpoint area, and one we’d like to work with the communities to advance.”
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