Location: Red Maple Park, 3320 Hinson Dr., Durham, NC 27704
Community Impact: When something is near and dear to your heart, almost losing it makes you appreciate it even more. That situation nearly happened with Red Maple Park in Durham, North Carolina.
When a storm drain under the driveway to the park collapsed, access to the athletic and recreational green spaces was cut off and the city was forced to shut the park down. During that time, vandals stripped the park of virtually everything of value from grills and picnic tables to the copper piping from the restrooms that eventually had to be torn down. This left community residents frustrated and without a place for their kids to play.
“This is a very engaged community and when we didn’t hear much after the initial park closing I thought it was odd,” says Rhonda Parker, director of Durham Parks & Recreation.
Parker shared this with the city’s Recreation Advisory Commission and it decided to meet with the community. The commission took its August 2014 meeting outdoors to the park to get a read on the situation.
What Parker and the commission arrived at the park, they were met by more than 50 neighborhood residents and 30 plus children on bikes that came to say they were ready to take their park back.
Parker and the commission learned community residents were fearful of going into the park because of the gang-related crime and vandalism, and felt powerless to do much about it until this meeting was called.
“We didn’t know what to expect but more than 80 people came out to tell us how important the park was to them and their children,” says Parker. “It was important for the commission to hear how inspired the community was to take their park back.”
Once the driveway was repaired the community sprang into action helping with the cleanup work and starting a petition to receive a grant for a new playground. The city replaced the picnic tables and grills, and repaired and painted to park’s shelter. They also organized community events in the park to get local residents to come back to the park with their families.
In November 2015, the grant for the new playground came through and on a cold, rainy day neighborhood residents and volunteers helped install the new playground.
What was missing was the renovation of the grass baseball and softball outfields and the clay infields at Red Maple Park. That’s where Project EverGreen’s “Healthy Turf. Healthy Kids.”™ initiative came in. In April, green industry volunteers excavated, graded and replaced the infield surface with a new clay mixture, installed new sod and also applied weed control and fertilization treatments to the outfield turf.
The newly renovated field plays host to the city’s Long Ball baseball program and girls’ softball program, both of which involve hundreds of budding athletes who play on the field daily throughout the spring and summer.
“We have developed a gem of a field for the kids and the park has become a nucleus for the community,” says Parker. “Having access to safe, well-maintained athletic green spaces to play on gives kids the chance to be active and involved and that means a lot for their health and well-being.’
Parker credits the neighborhood residents, especially the senior citizen community who enjoyed the park with their own children in years past, for stepping up and getting the ball rolling.
“The community has sweat equity in the park’s rebirth and that has made all the difference in the park’s transformation,” adds Parker.
Weed control and fertilization
Reseeding and application of soil top dressing
Installation of new plant material and trees
Infield excavating, grading and replacing infield surfaces with a new clay mixture
Brush removal and tree trimming
Completion Date: April 2016
Estimated Project Value: $11,000
Estimated Value of Volunteer Time: $4,600