Groundbreaking at neighborhood park scheduled for later this spring

Amy Stecklein has lived near Tietze Park for nearly two years. She has two children — Ella, 2, and Nate, 1 — but rarely takes them to the park to play.

She and many of her friends who are also moms prefer parks in Lakewood or Highland Park.

The main reason, Stecklein says, is because Tietze doesn’t have toddler swings on its playground. But she also cites problems with cleanliness, as well as “every now and then strange people lurking around the park.”

But she’s quick to point out that she’d love to use Tietze Park more.

“The park is a wonderful piece of land right in the middle of a prospering community, and I see it as having so much potential,” she says. “I also think as a community, we need to take back our park and make sure it is clean.”

Amy Stecklein, meet Kelly Nash.

Nash is president of the Friends of Tietze Park Foundation, a group that arose in 2002 after some Lakewood Heights neighbors conceived of the idea two years earlier.

Aiming to form themselves after such successful groups as For the Love of the Lake and the Katy Trail Foundation, Nash and his neighbors garnered the support of then-councilwoman Veletta Forsythe Lill and lobbied for a piece of the 2003 bond package, which they received to the tune of around $570,000.

Since then, the group has grown to about 60 members. Last year, they held a fundraiser, TietzeFest, and also recently launched a brick-inscription program: For $50, people can get their name, their family’s name or something else appropriate inscribed on a brick that will be used in a park pathway.

So far, the group has raised about one-quarter of the $20,000 it’s aiming for. This money will be used to install new benches and picnic tables, just one of 16 components of Tietze’s Master Plan, which is really a “wish list” for the park.

Recently, the city approved new funds for the park so that currently Tietze’s budget stands at about $700,000.

Phase I of improvements should begin in June and be completed by the first part of 2007, says District 14 Park Board member Wayne Smith. It will include:

• A “significant amount of new security and sight lighting,” Smith says;

• Pavilion restoration;

• A new playground, including the toddler equipment Stecklein is hoping for;

• Sidewalk replacements; and

• Additional water fountains, as well as basketball court and pool house improvements.

In the park’s second phase, the pavilion and pool house will get new roofs, repairs will be made to the storm sewer system, and some of the walking trails will be expanded. The parking lot also will be enlarged.

“It’s a wonderful park. Is it in kind of sad shape right now? It is,” Smith says. “That’s just the story from this city for a decade and a half past. In the ’80s, our parks suffered badly, and its taken so long to start bringing it back to up to where it ought to be.”

But, “a year from now,” he says, “Tietze Park will have a whole new look, a whole new feel.”

Neighborhood residents such as Nash and Stecklein hope he’s right, but they also know that for Tietze to thrive, it’s going to take more money and ongoing effort from the community. Nash hopes to attract corporate benefactors, and Stecklein says she’d like to see more “family activities such as ‘Clean up the Park’ day or ‘Plant Flowers’ day — something we can all do together to help and still have fun as a family while being productive for our community.”

Smith couldn’t agree more.

“I challenge every neighborhood group I talk to to take ownership in their local park. Banks, business people — they’re stakeholders in that park also.

“The more folks who are involved in the parks, the more difference you’re going to see.”

HOW TO HELP:

There are many ways neighborhood residents can help Tietze Park:

  1. Join the Friends of Tietze Park Foundation. Membership starts at just $25. For information, visit tietzepark.org.
  1. Buy an inscribed brick. Prices and ordering information can be found on the group’s website, or by contacting Nash at 214-827-3257 or knash@cmc-scrap.com.
  1. Attend a Tietze Park event. The Friends organization plans to host three movie nights at the park this summer. Dates have not been set, but keep an eye on the Advocate’s Out + About section for specifics.
  1. Donate or volunteer. Members of the foundation are often out at the park tidying it up. To find out how you can help out with time or money, visit tietzepark.org or call Nash.


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