Volunteers pouring TLC into long neglected park

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Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
The new Merri Mac Park Miracle volunteer group is spearheading efforts to make improvements at Merri Mac Park in London. Several members were on hand May 29 for the running of the first London Marathon and Half Marathon which began and ended at the park and raised $10,000 toward the group’s efforts. Pictured are: (from left) Tanya Jackson, Brenda Russell, D.J. Jackson, Richelle Mabra Barcus, Angel Franco, Marilyn Hall and Angela Gordon Eden. Not pictured: Beverly Whitelow and Yvette Wilson.

(Posted June 2, 2021)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The spotlight is swiveling in a new direction when it comes to park improvements in London.

Great work has been done over the last few years at Cowling Park, located in the center of town off of Main and Park streets. Now, a new group of volunteers is shining a light on Merri Mac Park, located on the south side of town off of Jenkinson Avenue and Toland Street.

“There’s so much room back here. It’s a shame not to do anything with it,” said D.J. Jackson, a lifelong resident of London who lives near the park. “I want to see it looking good, mainly for the kids.”

Jackson is vice president of Merri Mac Park Miracle, a group of residents that is working in tandem with the city’s parks and recreation department to breathe new life into the long neglected park.

The group began meeting several weeks ago. They have formed a board of directors and are working toward securing non-profit status. And they are dreaming big, setting goals not only for the short-term but also for the long-term.

“I want to see this group still working after I’m long gone,” said Marilyn Hall, Merri Mac Miracle treasurer, a member of London’s parks and recreation commission, and a member of First Baptist Church which sits adjacent to the park.

The group’s goal for this summer is to install new playground equipment, rehab the basketball courts, and see wifi and security cameras installed. At the same time, the city is working on installing new signage and starting infrastructure work related to water, electricity and restroom facilities.

“We hope that we get some real valid work done this summer. This park has not had anything substantial done in a long time,” said Tammy Braskett, London parks and recreation director.

Cleanup is taking place on the BMX track. More parking, benches, grills, trash receptacles and picnic benches are on the priority list for the future.

Hall said she hopes to see the park get to a point that the city can host regional wiffleball tournaments and provide a place for traveling ball teams to practice and compete. Many years ago, the park was a competitive hotspot for adult softball leagues.

She also likes the idea of installing benches around the pond at the back of the property, as well as throughout the park. The group has batted around the idea of securing bench sponsors.

“When you get people invested in something, that makes them have a sense of ownership. When you feel like you own something and put in your blood, sweat and tears, then you take care of it, and the next generation takes care of it,” she said.

The group is brainstorming ideas for raising funds to make their dreams for the park come true. Their first big step in that direction came on May 29 with the running of the first ever London Marathon and Half-Marathon. David Mars, a London resident, organized the event which drew nearly 200 runners and raised $10,000, all of which is going to the Merri Mac Park Miracle.

Jackson said the group’s next big fundraiser likely will take place in July. Details are to come. In the meantime, he and the rest of the group are spreading the word about what they hope to accomplish. Their motto is: “Together We Can.”

“We welcome anyone who wants to see London have a bright future. Our current group is committed for the long haul,” he said.

The Merri Mac Park Miracle board meets at 6 p.m. the second Monday each month in the upper level of American Legion Post 105, 51 E. First St. Anyone who wants to volunteer or learn more is welcome to attend.

The board’s officers are: Richelle Mabra Barcus, president; D.J. Jackson, vice president; Angela Eden, secretary; and Marilyn Hall, treasurer. Other board members include Beverly Whitelow, Yvette Wilson, Sarah Mars, Angel Franco, and Tanya Jackson. Brenda Russell, an at-large member of London city council, serves as a liaison between the group and government leaders.

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