Saturday, November 3, 2007

10/20 - Girl, 10, working to save playground

Date October 20, 2007
Section(s) Local News
The Brunswick News

It was devastating news for 10-year-old Morgan Simpson. Her beloved playground would be no more, at least according to the plans of Linger Longer Communities for the redevelopment of Jekyll Island.

This was something Morgan did not want to see happen, and she was determined to do something about it.

"It doesn't feel right," she said, sitting at a picnic table at the playground near the miniature golf course on Beachview Drive. "I love this playground."

So, after discussing it with her parents, Morgan came up with a petition protesting removal of the playground.

She's obtained more than 42 pages of signatures and more than 527 names. Morgan has gotten the whole fourth-grade class at her elementary school, Satilla Marsh, to sign the petition and is working on the fifth-grade class.

The principal and assistant principal have signed the petition. Her goal is to get every student at Satilla Marsh Elementary to sign.

She even took her petition to CoastFest on Oct. 6.

It was her mother, Rande Simpson, who broke the news to Morgan about the playground's fate. She said she was astounded by the proposal to demolish the playground.

"The first thing I noticed about the plans was the playground," Rande Simpson said. Simpson and others spent nearly a year planning and getting the playground built in 2003.

All the equipment gleams brightly in the sun. It's even gated and offers separate play areas for different age groups.

"It was a real community effort to get it built," said Rande Simpson, pointing toward the different plaques and engraved bricks that line the walkway, mementos purchased by supporters. The playground, built with money raised through such fundraisers, is maintained with proceeds from the Jekyll Island parking fee.

Morgan said she spent many birthday parties at the playground and can't imagine not having it around.

Everyone uses the playground, she said. Locals and tourists alike bring their children to play on the swings, slides and Morgan's favorite, the monkey bars.

"This was from the heart and the children," Morgan's mother said about the petition.

The family knows the playground has to go, but they would love to see it moved somewhere else, she said. Simpson says it would be great if it was near the beach, more specifically north of Blackbeard's Restaurant.

"I would at least like to see it relocated," Morgan Simpson said. "I understand things change but the sad part is there's nothing for children to do" if the playground is demolished.

The Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, which opposes high-priced development on Jekyll Island, supports Morgan's effort.

"We are happy to see Morgan step up and do this," said David Egan, co-director of the Initiative.

Meanwhile, Morgan Simpson continues to push for an alternative approach to demolition.

"Jekyll Island is for all of Georgia, but they forget about the children," said Dan Simpson, Morgan's father. "The children get tired of the beach and Summer Waves. Without the playground there will be nothing for them to do."

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