danneel-park.jpgThe park is nestled between million-dollar mansions and beautiful oak trees on historic St. Charles Avenue, and is absolutely . . . awful. Kids romp on old rusted playground equipment, and swing over a concrete block. (The rubber safety mat was blown away by Katrina.) The roof of the small shelter is partially collapsed, trash pickup is sporadic at best, and the grass and weeds are rarely cut. Welcome to Danneel Park.

000_01991.JPGYet the kids who patronize this historic playspot never complain. In fact, they were outraged when some meddlesome parents got together and removed the park’s “pit jump” attraction. The pit jump was actually an old slide that had been shredded by a tree felled by Katrina, leaving only the steps. Kids claim jumping into the pit below was “fun,” but concede it was not exactly “safe.”

Someone also set up an old tether ball pole, but after a few weeks the ball disappeared and has been replaced by a stick on a string. When you’re a three-year old it’s undoubtedly fun to hang on the stick and be twirled around the pole by your dad like a human tether ball. Of course, a child safety expert might raise a condescending eyebrow.

000_0200.JPG Recently, a group of concerned parents and neighbors organized to get the park updated with new equipment and maintain it, through a combination of pressure on city government, private dollars, and volunteer work days. The organizer of the group has met with the Director of NORD and enthusiastically reports complete cooperation. Progress is evidently being delayed, however, because FEMA needs to “record” the damaged structures before they are removed or the city will not get reimbursed.

Leave it to FEMA to ruin another aspect of life in New Orleans. Granted, the bumbling bueraucracy has resisted the temptation, at least as of press time, to turn the green space into a FEMA trailer park. (Former councilman Jay Batt has claimed his efforts prevented such a debacle.  If they did, he should be commended.)

To be fair, the park did sustain extreme damage in Katrina (pictured below on September 4, 2005), and the restoration of an Uptown park does not top the list of the city’s priorities.  But it’s been over a year, and an effort to improve they city’s parks will improve the quality of life in a city struggling to rebuild. For more information on the efforts to restore Danneel Park, contact Mamie Favor at mamie.favor@nmfn.com.

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From the humorously outdated City Guide New Orleans:

Constructed in memory of Hermann and Maria Louisa Grace Danneel, this new Uptown playground provides an excellent time-out for parents and kids alike. Situated along the streetcar line on beautiful St. Charles Avenue, the grounds feature three swing and slide equipped jungle gyms as well as a climb and slide, big red dinosaur. Swings include bucket seats for the little ones and strap swings for the bigger kids. There is plenty of plain ol’ running around room and a few benches for parents to watch the activity and talk to one another. The whole area is fenced in and every area of the park is easily visible. Danneel Playspot is clean and well-maintained.

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