Donations near to saving summer playground program in troubled park

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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With just a little more community support, local families will be able to continue taking back Evergreen Park this summer.

The 3.5-acre park sits just off busy Fourth Plain Boulevard. A big community development grant upgraded its offerings about a decade ago, adding a gazebo, a walking path and a new playground. But police still respond to calls about gang activity and other trouble at the park far too frequently.

Mayor Tim Leavitt made a special mention of Evergreen Park during his 2013 State of the City Address on March 20. He asked everyone to pitch in and preserve the free Evergreen Summer Playground Program, which aims to "take back" the park via safe, fun summer activities for kids.

The program receives no city funding. It provides free, staff-led sports, music, dance, arts and crafts and more, five days a week, four hours per day, for seven weeks each summer. It also provides free meals through local charity Share and its SummerSLAM program. The Evergreen Summer Playground Program is a drop-in program with space for 60 children who live in the Fourth Plain corridor of west central Vancouver.

"Fee-based summer recreation, such as day camps or youth sport leagues, simply isn't an option for most of the families living in this area," said Laura Hudson, Interim Director for Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation. "The support we receive from the community to continue to run this program is invaluable."

People in the State of the City audience came up with $770 on the spot. This week, Beaches Restaurant owner Mark Mathias delivered a check for $2,000 more to the Parks Foundation, which is collecting funds for the program.

"This gift provided a terrific boost to funding available for the 2013 program," said Parks Foundation executive director Cheri Martin. "Thanks to our other contributing partners -- the United Way, Comcast and Audigy Group -- the Parks Foundation is now just $2,230 short of fully funding the $15,000 program for this year."

"We asked the community to step up and they did. We are very grateful," said Leavitt.

For more information, contact the Parks Foundation at 360-487-8370 or visit www.parksfoundation.us and click on special projects. Donations to the Parks Foundation are always tax deductible.