Children have been making use of the basketball courts at Rotary Park in Bender Fields since it opened in June. Behind them are the pickleball courts which were able to be built with help from the Blackburn family of Bellingham. (Hailey Palmer/Lynden Tribune)

Basketball and pickleball areas being played; ‘kids out here until 10 o’clock’ 

 LYNDEN ­— The Mount Baker Rotary Park at Bender Fields is finally complete, save for a couple of minor details to tidy up. 

Picnic tables were installed last week and parents and children have been using the basketball and pickleball courts for a few weeks now.

This park being his big project during his term as Mt. Baker Rotary Club president, Jeff Roberts said it is very fulfilling to see the park being used. 

It’s been a process over months going back to last year.

“Seeing the rocks get delivered, the sand get delivered, the asphalt go in and the hoops and lights go up, that’s all really exciting. But to see people having picnics out here and see kids out here until 10 o’clock at night playing basketball,” Roberts said. “People are using the park in ways I never imagined they would use it.”

Roberts said an additional $25,000 was raised for the park over the last couple of months, with some of that money coming from people or businesses that had already donated. 

The coronavirus pandemic paused completion of the project in March and April, but now also because of COVID-19 and people being homebound, Roberts said, the park is seeing a ton of use. 

“The cool part is because of COVID, all these kids have nothing to do and they’re all stir-crazy,” he said. 

The park is being used by people of all age groups and at all times of day. Roberts said he couldn’t have predicted how much it would be used once completed. 

“The use is unbelievable,” he said. “That’s what we wanted with it — something where the whole community could come in and find a reason to use it. That’s what we’re seeing.”

More than $500,000 was raised in total for the project, with three donors of $25,000 or more, 10 of $10,000 or more, 17 of $5,000 or more and 30 of $2,500 or more. 

Besides the Rotary club, the three biggest contributors were the Blackburn family, which donated for half of the pickleball courts, the City of Lynden and the Lynden Regional Parks and Recreation District, which paid for a third climbing rock. 

Since it was initially a project only funded for the climbing rocks and basketball courts, Roberts said he could never have pictured how big the expansion would become when it began over a year ago. The park now also includes a sand volleyball court and pickleball court, a giant chess board, and picnic tables on an elevated berm. 

“It took way longer, was way harder and cost way more money, but if I had to do it all over again I would, knowing it was going to turn out this nice and be used this much,” Roberts said. “It’s being utilized so well. The scale of it I could have never imagined.”