A playground is a sacred place for a community. It is there that parents and caregivers trust that their children will be safe from harm as they enjoy all of the fun amenities it has to offer. But when a playground becomes a location for drugs and violence, the community must step in to reclaim what is supposed to be a child’s safe haven. That is exactly what has recently occurred at the Walnut Hill Community Playground.
When a shooting took place in broad daylight barely a block from the playground last May, the Walnut Hill Community Association and the local Town Watch group began to organize meetings to discuss how to better protect their children. From these meetings, the Friends of the Walnut Hill Community Playground was formed.
“We realized that we need to be more visible and have adults who are available during the day to come out and sit in the playground,” said Lorna Peterson, the secretary of the Walnut Hill Community Association. “Children who don’t mind being supervised will participate and keep coming, and those who don’t care for supervision won’t come.”
Aside from watching children in at the playground, the group also keeps up with weekly playground maintenance, cleaning it up, opening it up in the morning, and locking the gate at night.
“We want to make sure that the playground continues to be an asset to the community, where kids feel safe and parents feel safe sending the kids there,” said Imanni Wilkes, the managing director of the association.
With help from the 18th District Police Department, the group has asserted the adult presence in the community by posting the rules of the playground and strictly enforcing them.
As the playground has continued to be used for cookouts, residents’ birthday parties and a number of events held by the association without any further problems, the goals of the Friends of the Playground seem to have been met.
“The groups that used to be there a lot actually don’t even come there anymore so it’s been a lot quieter, much better,” said Lydia Hancock, a Walnut Hill resident.
Though a lot has been accomplished over a short period of time, the group still has many future plans for how to maintain the playground and make it even better. Next on the list?
“Lights,” said Melvina Cohen, a resident of Walnut Hill. “We want to raise money so that we can keep it lit up in the winter when it gets dark quick.”
And of course, more members.
“If you have a mind to work on your community, then we have a place where we can meet and discuss what needs to be done,” Peterson said.
For more information on the progress of the Walnut Hill Community Playground, visit https://walnuthillca.com/.