The Viola Community Center in Viola, Idaho, is a bright-red, barn-style building nestled in the picturesque Palouse Hills. Built in 2018, the purpose of the center was to breathe new life into the town by providing a facility for arts, education, recreation and celebration. The next step in the revitalization plan for the Viola Community Club—which runs the center—was to build a playground. The Viola Community Center reached out to prominent organizations like the Latah County Board of REALTORS® to join them as partners.
Bill Hall, 2022-2023 President of Latah County Board of REALTORS®, jumped at the chance to work with Teresa Heitmann, Board President of the Viola Community Center, on the project.
Hall and Heitmann both shared a vision of renewal through placemaking.
“We have recognized for years that a gathering place for all ages is needed for any community to stay connected,” Heitmann told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in July. “And it is especially challenging for a bedroom community whose once-active main street has become all private residences.”
The vacant southwest corner of the community center was the perfect spot for the playground, and playground equipment was purchased with a grant from the Idaho Community Foundation. But a significant amount of work needed to be done before the playground could be installed. The land is situated on a floodplain, and after an engineering analysis, steps needed to be taken to bring the site into compliance with state requirements. “We needed to excavate the site, establish borders, establish proper drainage and add synthetic wood chips to the state’s recommended depths for specific (playground) implements based on Theresa’s architectural design”, says Hall.
LCBOR applied for and received a $5,000 National Association of REALTORS® Placemaking Grant for the project. The NAR funds went toward landscape fabric and rubber playground mulch. LCBOR contributed an additional $5,000 in matching funds.
An unusually wet winter and spring, however, caused delays and increased costs on the project. But LCBOR, the Viola Community Center, and many REALTORS® and community volunteers rolled up their sleeves and worked hard to ensure that the playground was completed on time in the summer of 2022.
“Because of the size of this project, and the labor hours shared by both the community and REALTOR® members, the community was pleasantly surprised by how involved the REALTORS® were and how much they wanted to help,” says Hall.
The finished playground—the only one in town—boasts a swing set, a flying turtle, a tether ball, a tube, and a climbing dome to delight Viola’s younger citizens. And the young at heart have also been known to try out the amenities from time to time.
Hall is proud of the positive impact the playground has had on Viola and Latah County. In addition, though he has now worked on three placemaking projects, he feels a special connection to this one.
“I got to know many in the community much better than I had, and as this is my local (association), my family also participated,” said Hall. “I truly felt a part of my local community.”