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Schools at the Heart of Communities: Leo Adler Parkway, Baker City

Trail links school to neighborhoods

Since the early nineties, community leaders in Baker City have dreamed of creating a park and path system that would link residential neighborhoods to the downtown and other local sites. Thanks to a large bequest to the city from Leo Adler, a local magazine distributor, coupled with state and private foundation grants, the dream is approaching reality. Two and a half miles of the three-mile Leo Adler Parkway were completed as of 2001, and the remaining four-block gap is expected to be finished by 2008.

Children and students already benefit from the trail, which links neighborhoods to the Baker City High School, a public library, and a sports complex with softball, soccer, track and flag football facilities.

“The parkway is very well used by young people,” said Jennifer Watkins, a planner with Baker City. “It’s used not only by high school students, but also by younger kids who go to the sports complex to practice baseball, soccer, etc. The kids can get there on their own. They don’t have to be driven.”

Planning for the project got under way in 1996 with a five-day charrette (planning meeting). The local high school provided space for town-hall-style meetings at which parkway plans were discussed with the community as a whole.

“We’ve had wonderful cooperation from Baker City High School,” said Tabor Clarke, a local resident who led parkway planning. “The school incorporated the path and restoration of the Powder River into its agricultural curriculum. For me, this engaged the students from the school. The students took some ownership of the project, which was very satisfying to our group. We had great input from the students and the high school staff.”

Baker School District Superintendent Don Ulrey said the new path is ideal for students and for visitors to Baker City.

“We’re looking at building a new middle school along the path,” he said. “And we’ll offer aquatic and environmental classes that will make further use of path. It’s a great gift from the Leo Adler Trust, along with the scholarships the trust has provided for our students and a pledge toward a new library.”

“I can’t think of a better way to get kids back and forth from school,” said Clarke. “You can see how much more safely the kids can get from one place to another and avoid getting onto dangerous open streets.”

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