School, Community, to Finalize Mt. Vernon Playground Plan (NJ)

Newark, NJ, 2/19/2008: For four months, students at Mount Vernon School have dedicated time as part of a participatory design team charged with coming up with a plan for a schoolyard playground. The lot was the site of the tragic shooting of four young people last August. Since then, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) has been leading efforts with the school, community members, and generous donors to reclaim the space for something positive.

“We have an opportunity to reclaim this space, to create a place of joy for the children and families of this community,” said Carl Haefner, program director of The Trust for Public Land’s Parks for People-Newark Program. “We are grateful for the support of the philanthropic community and are looking for additional contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals to make this happen.”

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. The target completion date for the project is September 2008.

Participatory design is a signature of all of TPL’s park creation work. Skilled staff members and professional 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.

The Mount Vernon design team came up with a plan that includes a turf field, multi-purpose and basketball courts, two sets of play equipment, benches and seating areas, trees, and a teaching garden, which is being coordinated by the Greater Newark Conservancy. The landscape architect is Hatch Mott MacDonald, based in Millburn, New Jersey.

The project is part of TPL’s Parks for People-Newark program, launched 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. To date, TPL has seven new parks and playgrounds in Newark, serving more than 8,000 children and families.

The Trust for Public Land is raising $1 million in 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. Philanthropic support has already been committed by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Prudential Foundation, and the Schumann Fund for New Jersey. The play equipment is also being donated by GameTime and Marturano Recreation. TPL aims to raise the remaining $525,000 by April 2008.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. To learn more about The Trust for Public Land’s work in Newark, call (973) 718-7338 at or email