FLINT, Michigan—A trip to the park is now a simple walk across the street for Ceterra Williams, 11; Mariah Fisher, 15; and Natalia Williams, 9. The trio of girls have quickly made the newly renovated playground at Bassett Park their everyday hangout.
The renovation in Bassett Park including the playground installation on July 27 is the result of a partnership between Community Foundation of Greater Flint, United Way of Genesee County, the City of Flint, Make and Impact Foundation, and Keep Genesee County Beautiful.
The girls keep an eye on the park, often from their vantage point on the merry-go-round. Even when the whole space is packed with kids, they watch out for littering and educate newcomers on how “cool” their park is now.
“They’re my park policemen,” said Linda Bell, a neighbor and self-identified community activist and enthusiast, “because this is their park, you know. They helped build it. They helped care for it. It’s their park.”
Bell,55, volunteered to adopt Bassett Park in February. Aside from keeping the park clean and cared for, she wanted to activate the park again as a way of resurrecting a sense of play and adventure she had always been familiar with growing up in the city.
Little did she know then that she would be caring for a park and a new playground. The new playground built at Bassett Park is part of the Flint Kids Play Project — which is responsible for the renovation and installation of 11 other playgrounds across the city.
At Bassett Park, the playground equipment is low to the ground, explains Bell, so that it is more accessible. It features stairs and railings, ramps, slides, and platforms.
“That equipment over there is accessible to all the children in our Flint community area,” Bell said. “I like to see communities get together. It was always a hope that I could be involved in something like that.”
The playground also is frequently visited by young people taking classes or hanging out at Haskell Community Center, which is located at the park along Forest Hill Avenue.
The bulk of the funding for the project came from the Flint Kids Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, said Nancy Edwards, director of Keep Genesee County Beautiful, which is working to install a playground in all Flint parks. Keeping children active is one way to mitigate the affects of being exposed to higher lead levels during the Flint Water Crisis, doctors have said.
The playground was assembled and installed with the help of dozens of volunteers over the course of several days before the July 27 grand opening.
Everyone came together excited to contribute, Edwards said. Flint resident Ceterra Williams joined volunteers from the United Way, Target, and many community businesses and organizations.
“I look up to the park because it's fun, and I know that we’re the ones who helped build it,” said Williams, who helped spread mulch around the park. “Helping is caring.”