NEW HAVEN — A New Haven playground has been refurbished by a group of volunteers, and was recently rededicated in memory and in honor of those involved in its original construction.
David Morgan led the group in the revitalization of the playground that is located at the entrance of the Haven Heights addition. It was rededicated in memory of Okey and Helen Howard, as well as the Blackhurst-Gorell family.
In a ceremony held at the playground, members of both families joined together, along with town officials and volunteers who worked on the project. Morgan related how it all began.
He said he visited the Mason Senior Center for lunch in April, while working on a charity bingo event. While there, a still unknown woman approached him and asked if he could do something to get nets put on the basketball rims at the park so her grandchildren could play there.
Having grown up on “the Heights,” Morgan said he bought new nets and a few weeks later went to install them. It was then he found the playground, built around 1977, needed more than a couple of nets. Equipment needed sanded and painted, the slide steps had come loose from their foundation and were dangling, and a former water fountain was broken and unusable.
After gaining approval from town council, Morgan recruited friends and local residents, and began gathering supplies. He said the first person he approached was Scott Brewer, a member of the trade union, who Morgan said he knew would have the skills and necessary equipment to help.
Along with other work, Brewer revamped the old water fountain, removing the remnants of the metal fixtures. He then built around the fountain to make a holder for the plaque that now rededicates the playground. Neighbors Bill and Jean Yoho offered electric and water, if needed, for the repairs and later helped pay the cost of the plaque.
Along the way, Morgan said many showed up to help with the project. Marc Kearns, Lisa Crump, Rex Howard and his nephew Anthony, Jerry Spradling, Linda Brewer, Rudy Ward, and high school students Drake and Damien Dent were some of those who assisted in sanding, painting, and repairing.
Organizations and businesses also got in on the project, Morgan said. Bruce Adams of (the now closed) Maggie’s Diner supplied pizza for the volunteers. The Moose Lodge provided paint, and the town workers, Benzer Pharmacy, Bob’s Market and Greenhouses, and Thompson’s Hardware all helped or provided supplies.
“Six months in the making, and the playground is back for the next generation, and many more memories to come,” Morgan said.
The rededication ceremony turned into somewhat of a reunion, with members of the Howard, Blackhurst, and Gorell families, as well as others, posing for photos in front of the playground.
Maryanne Blackhurst-Gorrell, who donated the land, attended and said she and her late husband had planned to build a house there. After plans changed, it was decided to donate the land so the children of Haven Heights would have a place to play, other than the streets.
Morgan said the Howards built most of the houses on Haven Heights and molded the lives of young people for over 60 years through sports and band programs in the Bend Area. He added several members of the family served as instructors, coaches, and boosters at the schools, while Helen was a school cook for many years.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.