Lake Murray area residents work to restore park playground
Posted by George J Janczyn on March 17, 2010
These days in San Diego, one can’t avoid hearing of the city’s inability to pay for municipal services and infrastructure maintenance. “Brownouts” of fire crews, elimination of civilian employees in the police department, reductions in branch library operations, and reductions of lifeguards have been recently announced in the wake of the FY 2010 budget approved by the city council. So too, it goes for recreational facilities.
At Lake Murray Park, located in the Navajo Community within the Mission Trails Regional Park system, a playground serving a large community of children originally built in the early 1990s has shrunk from nine pieces of play equipment to just three, because over the years the city removed aging equipment rather than repair or replace it. Residents also saw the playground deteriorate from hazards such as litter and sand contamination, while the sparse aging equipment attracted fewer users. Frustrated that the city would/could not fund any improvements, two local residents, Marilyn Olson and Tracy Dahlkamp, decided to organize a grassroots fundraising project to restore and improve the playground.
Tracy and Marilyn organized a nonprofit organization called Lake Murray Playground Project, setting a goal of raising $250,000 by 2011 to buy new equipment and perform upgrades to the playground area. The Lake Murray Kiwanis Foundation agreed to serve as the group’s fiscal sponsor. David Reed, a local landscape architect, donated his expertise for the playground redesign. With the help of others who became members of a steering committee to manage the organization, they officially launched the project last December with a fundraising event where they unveiled a proposed new playground design.
They’ve attracted funding and material support from local businesses (Windmill Farms, Keil’s Food Stores, Trails Neighborhood Eatery) and other organizations. The Union-Tribune caught wind of the project and published a story about it. So far, the city appears to be responding favorably to their idea, with Councilperson Marti Emerald publicly supporting their effort.
The work by Tracy, Marilyn, and the many volunteers sets a great example by their positive, constructive response to the declining municipal services compounded by the latest city budget woes. Speaking to the initiative of these two women, Jay Wilson (Executive Director, Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation) told me “they may not know it yet, but they are this area’s next community leaders.”
Another notable effort is under way at Ocean Beach. Recently, the city decided to cease maintenance of the fire pits at Ocean Beach and announced the intention of removing them altogether. Actually not just the fire pits in Ocean Beach but also in Mission Bay and La Jolla Shores (see http://www.savethefirepits.com/). OB’s Frank Gormlie (co-founder of the OB Rag) helped lead an effort to find individual sponsors to “adopt” fire pits and be responsible for their maintenance. Unfortunately, city policy may prevent them from doing so, as they’ve been told that such an effort would require a $1 million insurance policy, among other things, in order to comply with safety and legal requirements of public fire pit maintenance.