TARPON SPRINGS — The effort to give the children of the Mango Circle housing complex a place to play may blossom into a new super playground for all of the city's children.
The Tarpon Springs Housing Authority is looking to partner with other city organizations to make the city a top candidate for grant money from KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that builds playgrounds. The group expressed interest in helping Tarpon Springs last year after badly outdated Mango Circle playground equipment was removed for safety reasons.
Pat Weber, the authority's executive director, said Ed Dorsett Park, at Harrison Street and Levis Avenue, would be a prime location for a super playground.
More children could be served and have access to the equipment at that location, Weber said.
There is currently a swing set and some other playground equipment at Ed Dorsett Park. There are also basketball and tennis courts and a baseball diamond at the city park.
The housing authority plans to meet with officials from the city, the Citizens Alliance for Progress and the local YMCA to see whether there is any interest.
If there is, the coalition then would apply for a grant from KaBOOM!, which is based in Washington, D.C., and specializes in finding financial backers who are willing to pay for playgrounds.
KaBOOM! has spent more than $140 million to help build 1,700 playgrounds and sports fields nationwide, including 24 playgrounds in the Tampa Bay area, since its 1996 inception.
David Archie, executive director of the Citizens Alliance for Progress and Tarpon's mayor, said he's confident that the alliance will help with the effort.
"Without a doubt, I believe we will try and help," he said. "I talked with the president of our board about KaBOOM!, and it's my assumption to try and do something to enhance opportunities for young people."
Officials from KaBOOM! initially reached out to the housing authority last year after reading about the horrid condition of the playground equipment in Mango Circle, a community that the authority owns. That equipment had to be removed, leaving the 60 children in the community with no playground.
Because the authority was seeking federal funding to raze Mango Circle to make way for a new community, it decided not to apply for a KaBOOM! grant.
KaBOOM! approached the authority again last month after learning that the authority didn't get the federal money needed to replace Mango Circle.
This week, the authority also agreed to ask that playground equipment that the city currently owns be moved to Mango Circle. The equipment is on land that the authority owns but plans to build on in September.
Linda Herring, chairwoman of the housing authority commission, is pleased with the coalition approach to seeking a KaBOOM! grant for Ed Dorsett Park.
"It's unprecedented that they would work to put in a playground and then take it out," Herring said, explaining why the authority didn't apply for a KaBOOM! grant last year.
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4174