Fifteen years ago, Elliott Park was the place where schoolchildren and families gathered for play dates, birthday parties and Saturday afternoon get-togethers. There were swings, climbing structures, a sand box and many other age-appropriate and safe places to play at this park, open to all.
But Elliott Park has fallen into disrepair; most of the equipment has been removed, and little of the park remains. There is no community playground in Sewanee. Seeing this problem, the Sewanee Civic Association (SCA) began its For the Parks campaign.
The For the Parks campaign needs approximately $36,000 to reach its goal for the Elliott Park playground equipment and installation project. To date, $29,000 has been raised for the project, including major support from the Sewanee Community Council Funding Project, the South Cumberland Community Fund and the Kaj Krogstad Memorial Fund. The deadline to raise the funds is Sept. 30.
Elliott Park is a prime location as a central playground and meeting place for families—an outdoor space where members from across the community can connect. Located adjacent to University Avenue near the Book and Supply Store, All Saints’ Chapel and the center of the University campus, it is the place where a playground can be created again for children of all ages, and provide a place for newcomers to meet others, fostering a sense of community.
The plans for redeveloping Elliott Park include swing sets, a balance beam, bridge, climbing structures, spinning elements and a musical component. The approved design also includes use of natural and local materials. The park will be ADA-compliant and accessible, with access ramps at the adjoining sidewalk and parking lot.
Originally designated in 1870, Elliott Park has a history of community support with much of its playground equipment built by the community or purchased with donations. A swing set, chin-up bars, wooden step structure, and sand box (now removed) were installed under the leadership of Sandy Baird and Yolande Gottfried in the 1980s. In 1998, community member Dana Lesesne spearheaded the addition of a pirate ship constructed by the Sewanee chapter of Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji), with support from various sources, including the Kaj Krogstad Memorial Fund.
In 2012, several wooden play elements were in disrepair and removed from Elliott Park, leaving behind little more than an aging swing set in what was once a vibrant place for children to play.
The SCA is working on the next chapter of this community-supported park. The goal of the SCA is to help improve municipal conditions and equipment, and raise money the town cannot raise in taxes because it is unincorporated. Since Sewanee is unincorporated, it does not qualify for many state and federal grants that municipalities rely on for projects such as playgrounds, parks and community development. The community, and the Civic Association, have a long history of identifying needs, raising the necessary money, and building projects needed by the community.
The SCA will enter into a memorandum of understanding with the University of the South concerning maintenance, drainage control and parking lot improvements, and contingency planning for the equipment should the University ever need to relocate the playground. The SCA Parks Committee will be the point of contact for Elliott Park moving forward. This project will be a collaborative effort with the University’s Physical Plant Services, neighboring organizations, and community volunteers to maintain and enhance the park, creating a sense of ownership to ensure the long-term care and upkeep of this important part of the community.
The For the Parks project will benefit the whole community and our many visitors by reminding us that Sewanee is not only a place where families live, but is a place where families are valued.
To make a donation, send a check payable to SCA For the Parks, P.O. Box 222, Sewanee, TN 37375. All money raised will go through a designated fund with the Sewanee Community Chest, a 501(c) 3 organization and are tax deductible. There is an online campaign to use a credit card at gofundme.com/fortheparks.
The SCA is the managing organization of For the Parks, the Sewanee Classifieds and the Sewanee Community Chest, and the sponsoring organization for Cub Scout Pack 152.