TPL Dedicates Mount Vernon School Playground (NJ)

NEWARK, N.J., 10/8/2008: In a humbling ceremony today, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) dedicated the Mount Vernon School Playground at the site where the tragic shooting of four young people occurred just over a year ago. With the transformation from a cracked asphalt lot to a vibrant community playground, TPL has created a safe haven for the nearly 900 students enrolled in Mount Vernon School as well as the 2,200 children who live within walking distance of the new park.

“We jumped at the chance to reclaim this site as something positive for the students and the local community,” said Rose Harvey, senior vice president of The Trust for Public Land. “We worked alongside the school, community members, and generous donors to help make this a safe place where new memories can be made.”

Along with a coalition of community, civic, philanthropic, and nonprofit partners, TPL dedicated $1.3 million and countless hours of work to creating the park. The once-barren site now features a variety of amenities, including a multi-use field, track, playground equipment for younger and older children, a performance space, basketball courts, and a learning garden.

“This playground, along with The Trust for Public Land’s commitment to dedicating $30 million to other Newark parks, is a large part of the city’s path to urban transformation,” said Newark Mayor Cory Booker. “Thanks to the efforts of The Trust for Public Land, Newark Public Schools, and the creativity and input of the children of the Mt. Vernon School, and the Ivy Hill and Upper Vailsburg communities, the creation of this playground will forever commemorate the lives of the four victims of this tragedy and will enable our community to manifest the spiritual strength needed to begin to heal from the scars.”

Participatory design is a signature of TPL’s park development program. The process is both educational and rewarding, helping to establish a community investment in each new park and playground. For this project, TPL worked with the Greater Newark Conservancy and landscape architects from Hatch Mott MacDonald to meet with students and local residents to create a unique design. Students and other participants learned how to read design schematics and had to work within a budget during the creative, instructive process.

“The transformation of this park is an incredible benefit for our students,” said Dr. Clifford B. Janey, superintendent of Newark Public Schools. “It was amazing how much The Trust for Public Land included the students in the design phase and presented them with such a rewarding and challenging learning experience.”

Lead private funding was donated by Charles Hayden Foundation, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, The Kresge Foundation, The Prudential Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Schumann Fund for New Jersey, and Victoria Foundation. PlayCore/GameTime and Marturano Recreation also donated the play equipment.

“This playground is a tribute to the Mount Vernon School’s principal, teachers, and students, and the community organizations that worked with the school to transform a tragic site into a place where children can play and learn,” said Barbara Reisman, executive director of The Schumann Fund for New Jersey, and a spokesperson for the project’s funders at the event. “The Trust for Public Land and the Greater Newark Conservancy have a long history of working with the residents of Newark to create safe spaces for children. It is a privilege to join a group of foundations and businesses devoted to Newark’s future to make this playground a reality.”

The project is part of The Trust for Public Land’s Parks for People-Newark program. The Newark-based program was launched in 1995 to address the dire lack of outdoor recreational space in Newark’s neighborhoods. The goal is to expand and enhance Newark’s park system, providing a safe park within walking distance of every Newark resident. TPL is currently working to bring a $30 million investment to 11 of Newark’s parks and playgrounds. Other projects include the renovations of Nat Turner Park and Jesse Allen Park, expansion of play space at two existing playgrounds, and park development along the Passaic River waterfront.

This park is TPL’s eighth new park and playground in the city. TPL’s efforts have engaged the community by weaving a system of parks and common spaces throughout the city, linking people and neighborhoods and strengthening the fabric of Newark itself. TPL’s parks will serve more than 31,000 Newark residents. Learn more about TPL’s work in Newark.

The Trust for Public Land
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. Since 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2.5 million acres of land in 46 states, including more than 23,000 acres in New Jersey.

Newark Public Schools
The Newark Public School district, with a student population of 42,000, is the largest and one of the oldest school systems in New Jersey, dating back to 1676. Barringer High School, in Newark’s North Ward, is the third-oldest public high school in the nation. The ethnic diversity of the city provides a rich educational experience for pre-kindergarten to secondary school students. For additional information visit