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Englewood Parks Spruced Up By Residents, Volunteers

 Volunteers helped spruce up Murray Park in West Englewood Wednesday.
Murray Park
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WEST ENGLEWOOD — Volunteers from a Chicago real estate company teamed up with residents Wednesday to help spruce up Murray Park.

About 20 people showed up in the rain to spread specialized wood chips known as fibar on the playground at the park at 1743 W. 73rd St. The chips make the playground safer for children playing on the swings and slides, said Maria Stone, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit Friends of the Park, which organized the event.

She said volunteers would meet again from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at Lindblom Park, 6054 S. Damen Ave., to put down fibar on the playground there. The Chicago Park District is expected to refurbish or build 103 neighborhood playgrounds this year, Stone said.

"We will be working on 41 playgrounds this year. Last year, we did 18," Stone said. "Even though they did not have to come out, the residents came anyway, and that's great. By being a part of this process it shows that residents are taking ownership of their parks."

Volunteering also sets a good example for children, Stone said.

"When kids see adults working in their playgrounds, they have a little more respect for it," she said.

Pangea Real Estate had several employees, including Jen Furlong, who volunteered.

"Pangea has 8,000 units throughout Chicago, including some in Auburn Gresham, Chatham and South Shore, and we came out to show that we are part of the community," Furlong said.

Other volunteers came from outside the neighborhood. Ashley Bumpers, 27, said she lived in Bronzeville, but her grandmother resided in Englewood.

"I spent a lot of time in Englewood when I was growing up. And I care what happens to the neighborhood, so that's why I came to help," Bumpers said. "Unity is very important to me. As an African-American it hurts my heart to see African-American children that live in these [underserved] communities that don't have safe havens or places to go."

Sean Toler, an operations manager for Pangea, said he lived in Wicker Park but felt it was important to volunteer.

"I am originally from Harvey, a black suburb that needs help like Englewood. And knowing where I came from I thought it was important to come and support community development," Toler said.

Volunteering is a civic duty for residents, contends John Paul Jones, president of the nonprofit Sustainable Englewood Initiatives.

"The parks belong to the residents. They are built and maintained with their tax dollars. Residents should look after their investment as community stakeholders," Jones said

According to Jones, millions of dollars have been spent beautifying parks in more affluent neighborhoods while other parks were ignored.

"After years of disinvestment in our parks, I think it is time that South Side parks resemble parks on the North Side," Jones said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel participated in a groundbreaking ceremony April 17 at Murray and Lindblom parks as part of his "Chicago Play!" program launched last year.

Under the program, the Chicago Park District will rebuild, repair or refurbish 325 playgrounds in the next five years.

"Not only are we making significant investments in safe places for our children to play, we're actually ahead of schedule and will be halfway to our five-year goal in just two years," the mayor said. "Whether it's creating the largest bike-sharing program in the country or ensuring that every child in Chicago is within a 10-minute walk of a park or playground, we are investing to create a quality of life that is unmatched."

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