A newly revitalized Sunset Park unveiled last week will not have long until winter sets in, but Hermiston children have other options for recreation on cold, snowy days.
A central piece of the park’s new playground, which was paid for by a grant from Moda Health and the Portland Trail Blazers after Hermiston won an online voting contest last spring, has yet to arrive. But several pieces — including swings, climbing equipment, giant plastic drums and two large bears for sitting and climbing — have joined the new basketball court installed last year after the city doubled the neighborhood park’s size.
City councilor Doug Primmer described an “epic battle” between western Oregon and eastern Oregon’s largest cities during a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday.
“When the dust settled, the clear winner was the children of Hermiston,” he said.
Rebecca, Natalia and Camille LaBelle voted in the online contest and came out Wednesday to see the fruits of their labors. Natalia said she was glad to see Sunset Park expanded and improved with equipment that seemed safer than the old playground.
Camille, 10, said she thought the giant bears were “cool” and fun to climb. She was one of about 40 children participating in basketball clinics at the park, hosted by the Trail Blazers youth development staff.
Matt Dietrich, lead youth development coach, said he enjoys hosting clinics around the state to help the Blazers’ youngest fans get active and have a positive experience with basketball.
“I can’t believe I get paid to do this,” he said after one of the half-hour clinics.
Once the temperature dips below freezing, parents who want to keep their children’s minds and bodies active will have a harder time finding outdoor activities like the basketball clinics. Here are some of the area’s best winter options for keeping kids entertained after school and on the weekends once the weather turns cold:
The city of Hermiston’s parks and recreation department offers classes, sports leagues and events for children year-round. Most of the department’s fall classes wrap up soon, but the third installment of the “Film Kids” and “Mini Filmmakers” classes begin in November. Film Kids ages 9 to 16 can work with DSLR cameras, lighting and sound equipment and editing software to shoot collaborative short films on Tuesdays from 6:15-7:15 p.m. starting Nov. 7. Mini filmmaker students ages 5 to 8 can practice creating short films with their classmates from 4:15-5:15 p.m. on Thursdays starting Nov. 2.
On January 6, indoor basketball leagues for school-aged children and basketball clinics for preschool children begin.
The department also has special events planned. Children can have pancakes with Santa on December 16 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at the Hermiston Community Center, and on December 7 at 6 p.m. the city will hold its free annual tree-lighting ceremony on NE Second Street next to city hall.
Twenty miles down the interstate, kids and teens can swim, play basketball or climb the rock wall at the Boardman Recreation Center. The center’s indoor swimming pool includes lap swimming, recreational swim areas, a whirlpool and water slide. The center also features gyms, exercise equipment and a 27-foot rock climbing wall with routes of varying difficulties. Times vary for open gym and family swim, but schedules can be found each month on the Boardman Recreation Center Facebook page.
The recreation center is next door to the SAGE Center, an interactive visitor center where children can learn about agriculture and sustainable energy in the region. Displays include a video simulation of a hot air balloon ride over Morrow County, interactive games and a running model of equipment used to make french fries at nearby potato-processing plants. During the winter the center is open from 10 a.m. to 5p.m. Monday through Saturday at 101 Olsen Road.
Located on Highway 395 across from Wal-Mart, the Desert Lanes Bowling Center offers bowling, food and an arcade-style game room where players can win tickets to redeem for prizes. On “tightwad Tuesday” games are half priced from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and the bowling alley runs specials on bowling throughout the week, including family days on Sundays, where bowling is $2.75 per game, shoe rentals are $1 and children 4 and under bowl free.
Families can also hit the movie theater together. Most movies at Hermiston Cinema are only $5.50 on Tuesdays. The theater also offers special events, including one-time screenings of old musicals and sensory viewings designed for children with sensitivity to light and noise. On Saturday morning the theater is having a free showing of The Lego Batman Movie for children while collecting nonperishable food for local food banks. Doors open at 8:15 a.m. and seating is on a first-come, first served basis until full.
Get in touch with nature
At McNary Dam in Umatilla, parents can take their children to tour the interpretive displays at the Pacific Salmon Visitor Information Center, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The dam’s powerhouse, with views of the turbines that generate electricity, is also open to the public, provided guests check in with a security guard and those 18 and older provide photo ID. Cameras, purses and other bags are not allowed.
Outdoors, families can also bundle up and play disc golf on the McNary Dam course (which starts near the northwest corner of the parking lot), play on the West Park playground or wander the nature trails that stretch from the dam to the Interstate 82 bridge.