New Playground Planned for Newark’s Mt. Vernon School (NJ)

NEWARK, NJ, 12/13/2007: The cracked asphalt of the schoolyard at Mount Vernon elementary has served as a reminder of the horrific events of August 4, when four Newark teens were shot there. Three of those teens lost their lives and the shock and outrage felt in the community spread across the country as people struggled to make some sense of the tragedy.

Working with a coalition of community, civic, philanthropic, and nonprofit partners, TPL has pledged to revive the Mount Vernon School playground, committing $1 million and many hours to designing a park that will serve as a safe haven for community members and school children. To that end, the organization has involved students and community members in the design of the new playground. TPL will complete the design process in January 2008 and expects to dedicate the new playground next fall.

“The events of August 4 were horrible, shocking, and senseless,” said TPL Senior Vice President Rose Harvey. “It is our hope that by reclaiming this space for the community, the scars of the tragedy can begin to heal and the city can continue on its path of urban transformation. From our end, Mount Vernon fits perfectly into our mission to redevelop urban parks and playgrounds for use by every city resident.”

Included in the design are plans for a teaching garden coordinated by the Greater Newark Conservancy.

“Working with the students and community of the Mount Vernon School to create a learning garden is a way to show the wonderful things that nature can do for kids, like reducing the symptoms of ADHD and stress related conditions, increase their creativity and cognitive skills, and realize the full use of their senses,” said Robin L. Dougherty, executive director of the Greater Newark Conservancy.

The project at Mount Vernon School is part of TPL’s Parks for People-Newark program. The national nonprofit organization has already created seven new parks and playgrounds in Newark, serving more than 8,000 children and families.

TPL launched Parks for People-Newark in 1995 to address the dire lack of outdoor recreational space in Newark’s neighborhoods. The goal is to provide a safe park within a 10-minute walk of every Newark resident by working to expand and enhance Newark’s park system.

For years, the hallmark of this work has been the creation or redevelopment of community parks. The Mount Vernon playground project is part of The Trust for Public Land’s $16.8 million initiative to create and renovate parks throughout Newark and to mobilize plans for developing a waterfront park on the Passaic River.

The Trust for Public Land is raising critical public and private support to do this important work. Private donations will be combined with public funds from local, county, state, and federal sources. Work at Mount Vernon School is being made possible through public and private contributions, including the philanthropic support already committed by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and The Prudential Foundation and the donation of play equipment by GameTime and Maturano Recreation. TPL aims to raise the remaining $700,000 by March 2008.

“Prudential has a long history in investing and creating safe play spaces for Newark’s children,” said Lata Reddy, vice president of The Prudential Foundation. “Supporting this project is another opportunity to once again partner with the Trust for Public Land to create a safe, educationally enriching environment for our young people.”

Participatory design is a signature of all of TPL’s park creation work. Skilled staff members and landscape architects facilitate a process that includes students, school staff, and community representatives. Design teams cover everything from existing conditions and uses to play equipment selection and plans for maintenance. The process is both educational and rewarding and helps establish a community investment in the new parks and playgrounds.

To learn more about The Trust for Public Land’s work in Newark, call (973) 718-7338 at or email, or visit