Renovated Newark Playground Now Open (NJ)
Newark, NJ, 11/1/2005: Mildred Helms Park, a 3.3-acre city park in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Newark’s South Ward, has risen like a phoenix from the ashes after a 10-year push for renovation. The nonprofit Trust for Public Land (TPL), which led the $1.5 million renovation, will be joined by local, state, and federal partners to dedicate the new park.
The rebuilding was a partnership of community residents, TPL, the City of Newark, Newark Public Schools, Mildred Helms Park Resurrection Committee, the National Park Service, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, The Prudential Foundation, and Victoria Foundation.
After years of tight city budgets and insufficient funding for park maintenance, all that remained of Mildred Helms Park was a lot filled with overgrown weeds and artifacts of play equipment that was removed when it became a hazard rather than an amenity.
The rebuilding effort was driven by the Mildred Helms Park Resurrection Committee and the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization that operates on the premise that all children have a fundamental right to learn and play in safe, accessible outdoor recreational areas.
“This renovation was absolutely essential,” said Terrence Nolan, director of the New Jersey field office of the Trust for Public Land. “There are 3,000 residents within a quarter-mile of this new park-children and families who otherwise are without a safe park to gather and to play.”
“I thank the Trust for Public Land for making our playground safe and I encourage our City’s youth to take full advantage of this recreational facility,” said Mayor Sharpe James. “I urge parents and children alike to support Mildred Helms Park.”
The park now includes a paved exercise path, picnic tables, benches, game tables, water fountains, a gazebo, a play-spray, and new play equipment. The park design was created through TPL’s unique participatory design process, which included teachers, parents, and students from Clinton Avenue Elementary School and community residents through the participation of the Mildred Helms Park Resurrection Committee.
“This park is going to be a great asset to the community,” said Deacon James O. Crawford, president of the Mildred Helms Park Resurrection Committee. “What we are looking for is respect from community residents and their ownership of the park. Together, we can police this place to help maintain the right kind of atmosphere and a safe place for our children.” The committee has been meeting regularly at Trinity United Methodist Church since 1999, and the group looks forward to involving the Clinton Hill Congregation of Churches and other community groups in the stewardship of the park.
“Mildred Helms Park is a wonderful example of the African proverb, ‘It Takes a Village,'” said Marion Bolden, Superintendent of the Newark Public Schools. “This fantastic space has been developed through the powerful collaboration of the Trust for Public Land, the district, and the city, resulting in a place where Newark’s children can not only run and play but also learn and develop new skills.”
Responsibility for stewarding this new community resource will be shared by Newark Public Schools, the city, and the community (represented by the Mildred Helms Park Resurrection Committee). Newark Public Schools will take responsibility for maintaining the playground while the city will have overall responsibility for the park’s maintenance and security. It is the role of the community to keep a watch on the park, to continue to foster a sense of ownership within the neighborhood, and to promote the park as a recreational resource for local youth and their families. TPL will continue working with Newark Public Schools, the city, and the committee to help establish and implement a stewardship program that addresses maintenance, security, and ongoing activities and events in the park.
Funding for the project was provided by federal and state grants as well as private philanthropy.
“This partnership demonstrates the power of a community coming together to collectively create solutions that will satisfy the needs of the people who will use it most-the children and neighborhood residents,” said Gabriella Morris, president of The Prudential Foundation. “The Newark City Spaces program reflects the successful efforts of this public-private partnership, which has achieved extraordinary results in responding to the need for safe play spaces in Newark.”
“There is no better investment to be made in Newark than in the health and well-being of our children,” said Cathy McFarland, executive officer of Victoria Foundation, which has been supporting the Trust for Public Land’s efforts to provide open space and parks for Newark since 1977.
Federal funding was provided through an Urban Park and Recreation Recovery (UPARR) grant made through the National Park Service and strongly supported by the New Jersey congressional delegation. Over the past 27 years, the UPARR program has assisted in the delivery of recreation services to 380 urban jurisdictions and the Mildred Helms Park grant represents the fifth awarded to Newark.
“The National Park Service is pleased to play a role in the renovation of Mildred Helms Park. This multi-faceted effort serves as an excellent model for a partnership that will result in the delivery of badly needed recreation facilities to the city of Newark,” said Michael Wilson, Chief, State and Local Assistance Programs, National Park Service. “Congratulations to the mayor and the people of Newark as well as to TPL and all others involved in this fine project.”
Founded in 1977, The Prudential Foundation is the nonprofit grant-making organization of Prudential Financial, Inc. It is part of Prudential’s Community Resources Division, a strategic combination of four units: the Foundation, which strives to build children and families’ self sufficiency; the Social Investment Program, which originates and manages socially beneficial investments; Local Initiatives, which coordinates employee volunteerism and fosters community outreach; and Business Diversity Outreach, which facilitates diverse market development and outreach efforts for Prudential businesses. For more information, visit www.prudential.com.
The Trust for Public Land conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Through Parks for People-Newark, the organization is addressing the overwhelming need for additional safe playgrounds in the underserved communities of New Jersey’s largest city. Since 1995, six community parks have been created by the Trust for Public Land in Newark. The Trust for Public Land’s Parks for People initiative works in cities across America to ensure that everyone-in particular, every child-enjoys access to a park, playground or open space. For more information, visit www.tpl.org.