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A New Playground for Site of Horrific Murders

The site of the shooting at Mount Vernon Elementary School in Newark, N.J. Students, with the expertise of landscape architect Brian Clemson, are designing a new school playground.

In August 2007 in Newark, N.J., four youths, ages 18-20, were shot after dark on the playground at Mount Vernon Elementary School. Two were college students and two were planning to attend college in the fall. The students were hanging out and listening to music. One female victim survived.

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While six suspects await trial, three of them juveniles, students from Mount Vernon School are helping design a new playground where the youths were shot. Brian Clemson, a landscape architect with Millburn-based Hatch Mott MacDonald, is designing the playground, while teaching and guiding the students in the design work.

On Feb. 19, 2008, 16 students reviewed the preliminary design: a turf field, multipurpose courts for basketball and tennis, two sets of play equipment, benches, seating areas, trees and a teaching garden, the last coordinated by the Greater Newark Conservancy. The kids, who also helped design a jungle gym to replace the one burned down years ago, hope one day the schoolyard will be open to the public on nights and weekends. Colleen Graves, a program manager for the Trust for Public Land reports the playground will certainly house more security cameras.

The Trust for Public Land ( has pledged to raise $1 million for the new playground and reclaim a space that in time will offer happy moments for lots of kids.

Donating to this effort are the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Prudential Foundation, and the Schumann Fund for New Jersey. The play equipment will be donated by GameTime and Marturano Recreation. TPL hopes to raise the remaining $525,000 by April 2008. The target date for the new playground is September 2008.

TPL’s Parks for People-Newark program, begun in 1995, has the goal of a safe park within a 10-minute walk of every Newark resident. TPL now has seven new parks and playgrounds in Newark, serving more than 8,000 children and families.

Sources: The Trust for Public Land; New York Times; AP.

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June 26, 2019, 12:07 pm PDT

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