There is joy on the faces of children frolicking on a new playground in the Mango Circle public housing complex in Tarpon Springs. The city and Housing Authority have done their part to put the new mulched playground in place. Now it is time for Mango Circle residents to do their part to keep the playground safe.
The previous Mango Circle playground was a dangerous place for children. The equipment was rusty, with protruding sharp edges. The ground was covered in broken glass. Responsible parents didn't let their children play there.
The playground was dismantled after an April 2009 St. Petersburg Times story revealed the hazardous conditions and a national playground inspector enumerated the dangers there in a written report. The more than 50 children who live in the complex had been without a place to play on the grounds ever since.
But when the city had to dismantle one of its playgrounds on Lime Street because a Housing Authority project will soon be under construction there, city officials offered the playground equipment to the authority for Mango Circle.
Now, the swings and slides sit on a cushioning surface of mulch and one of the children interviewed by the Times says it has become the place to be. "As soon as everyone gets home from school, they rush straight to the park," said Cameron Barnes, 13.
That means the Housing Authority needs to keep close tabs on the equipment at the park, ensuring this time that it remains safe and well maintained. City recreation officials ought to stop by from time to time, too.
But the residents of Mango Circle are closest to the playground and they have a duty, too, to watch what goes on at the park and report to the authority or to police any inappropriate activity there. It wasn't the Housing Authority that littered the previous playground with so much broken glass that the soil glittered in the sun. That was Mango residents and visitors, and the new playground soon will be in the same condition unless people watch over it.
The children of Mango Circle deserve a safe and comfortable place to play. They have it now. But it will take everyone's effort to keep it that way.