Savannah Williams and her grandmother, Ina Mapes, could see the black smoke rising as they headed from Tucson back to their home in Catalina in July.
It was only when they got closer and saw the firetrucks that they realized the playground at Catalina Neighborhood Park had burned again – the third time in four years.
“I thought it was really sad that someone would burn down the one thing in Catalina we had to do,” said Savannah, 11, a sixth-grader at Coronado K-8 School. “I wanted to get another one.”
She waited, but when playground equipment was not quickly replaced, she sprang into action. “If they weren’t going to do it on their own, I was going to aid them,” she said.
She created a petition – Help us rebuild our park, it says – and asked fellow students, teachers, administrators and neighbors to sign it. She’s gathered 90 signatures.
“Most of the people have been very supportive,” Savannah said.
Unbeknownst to Savannah, the Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Department was already planning to replace the playground equipment. But the department staff and Jan Johnson, a Catalina resident who chairs the County Parks and Recreation Commission, were so impressed by Savannah’s efforts that the commission awarded her a certificate of appreciation at its meeting Friday, Oct. 5, at the Catalina Recreation Center, 16562 N. Oracle Road.
They’re going to let Savannah pick the color of the new equipment. Rafael Payan, the department’s director, said the new equipment should be in place before year’s end.
Now Savannah is planning to create posters to put up around town to try to catch the vandals who burned the park. A $2,500 reward offer has not led to an arrest.
“I think we have to keep rebuilding it to show that they can’t stop us from having our playground,” Savannah said.
For more information about Catalina Neighborhood Park and other County parks, please visit http://www.pima.gov/nrpr/parks/index.htm.
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