An idea by first graders to make the Barnes Butte Recreation Area in Prineville accessible to all came to fruition this weekend.
Two covered wagons that are wheelchair accessible made their debut in Prineville’s annual Christmas parade.
The idea for the 32-foot long, 9-foot wide covered wagons that can seat up to 50 people got started four years ago.
After the City of Prineville purchase the 620 acre Barnes Butte natural area in 2018, it enlisted 100 first graders at Barnes Butte Elementary School as junior land use planners for ideas on what to do with the property.
“One of the things they realized is we had a student in our classroom that was bound to a wheelchair. The student couldn’t ever join us out here because it was too difficult in the wheelchair, so then they wanted to make it accessible for our student,” said Marilee Smith, first-grade teacher at Barnes Butte Elementary.
The City of Prineville engineering department designed the new wheelchair accessible wagons. It fundraised for financial support from community organizations and then challenged the welding departments at Crook County and Mountain View high schools to build the wagons.
“Both schools the got same plans. Both did did fantastic jobs. They are just a little bit different,” said Eric Klann, Engineer for the City of Prineville.
The wagons will be used to move people from parking lots to venues at the Crook County fairgrounds, for tours of natural areas such as Barnes Butte and for future parades.
“The wonderful thing is the kids who were first graders at that time got to ride in the wagons and the young lady who is wheel-chair bound also got to participate. It was a long time coming,” Klann said. “It was an arduous process but we got there.”
Klann estimates the covered wagons would have cost about $50,000 apiece to build under contract. Instead the two wagons were imagined and built by students with donations from the community.