Morgan Park ready for makeover

By Ashley Scheiller  

A light breeze whistles through the crisply cut grass, as a banner boasting 90 years of education snaps in the wind and hangs proudly above the doors of the old middle school. Directly across the street is a small playground painted in bright blue and yellow and topped with tan plastic roofs.

There is nothing particularly unique about this playground, except for the fact that it is situated in historic Morgan Park. It stirs memories in every child who steps foot in the sandy pit encompassing the playground.

However, the playground that is there right now is only recommended for children ages 5 to 12.

What about those children who aren’t in that age group anymore? Where do they play?

It is a definite issue that the Morgan Park community has been concerned with, according to Debbie Isabell Nelson, Morgan Park Neighborhood Coordinator.

So, as of this August, the community and the 700 students of Morgan Park Middle School in particular will have a place to hang out that’s more age appropriate.

“This is not your typical teeter-totter and swing set playground; its design is based on activity and body movements,” Nelson said.

A strongly-envisioned playground of this magnitude comes with a costly tag attached. Nelson said that the cost of the playground will be an estimated 60,000 dollars, to be raised by August. So far, they have been able to raise 15,000 dollars with the help of Duluth’s Matching Grant, which has brought the total amount raised to 32,000 dollars thus far.

When the Spring 2010 Large Events Management class at the University of Minn. Duluth heard about Morgan Park’s need for a new playground, they created the Everybody Outside! event. The event was geared towards families and children of West Duluth, and it was a time for them to learn about the outdoors and have fun. It was held in Morgan Park on May 1, 2010. All proceeds from the event went towards the Morgan Park Playground Fund.

This is good news for the students at Morgan Park, who, according to seventh grader Deedee Etheridge, “like to swing and have a place to play in the park.”

Today, Morgan Park is very much off the beaten path, and off most people’s radars. “Morgan Park is a sad shell of its former self,” Nelson said in a Morgan Park newsletter.

Jill Jarvinen, a resident of Morgan Park for the past 14 years and a grandmother of two, said, “Morgan Park is not what it was used to be, back in the day this place used to have a swimming pool and country club. This was the place to be before Duluth was popular.”

Morgan Park currently has a revitalization plan for its community.

One of the things that the committee and community agreed upon is that there is not enough for kids to do. They also agreed that, to keep kids from doing less constructive things with their time, they should be given a place to play that does not say “for ages 5 to 12” on the welcome sign.

There are currently two design choices for the new playground. These designs will be displayed on posters in the halls of the school in the upcoming weeks. The great part, according to Nelson, is that all of the students at Morgan Park will have a chance to vote on which design they like best and also pick the name of the new playground. Therefore, their voices will be heard during the decision- making process.

Nelson said that they are confident that they will raise the money needed by August.

Building a new playground area is not the only thing that Morgan Park is doing to better the community.

Morgan Park’s in-action revitalization plan is to bring back the business., with plans to build an industrial park in the next two years.

“The new playground will be just a small thing in a bigger overall picture,” said Nelson.

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