Almost four years in the making, what started as the dream of the former principal and the parents of the C. Elizabeth Rieg School became a reality last week when the Mitchellville South Park Playground officially opened for play in Bowie.
The first fully accessible park in the Prince George’s County parks system, and the largest fully accessible park in the region, will be used by the children who attend C. Elizabeth Rieg, participants in a county therapeutic services program, and neighborhood children.
“Is this not magical? Does this not bring out the kid in you?” asked Elizabeth Hewlett, chair of the Prince George’s County Planning Board.
The 8,100-square foot park was built with $550,000 from the parks system although additional funding was supplied by the Prince George’s County Board of Education and the Mark Norman Memorial Fund, making the park “a collaborative labor of love,” Hewlett said.
Mark Norman, a former principal of the school who died in 2008, was particularly dedicated to this playground, and several of the speakers at the opening event lauded his enthusiasm and his early efforts to get the park off the ground.
“His energy was contagious. He got on fire for this playground so I got on fire for this playground,” said Jennifer Martin-Johnson, president of the parent teacher organization at C. Elizabeth Rieg.
After Norman died, his life partner Daniel Warham took up the cause of the park and has spent the last four years working to see the project completed in Norman’s honor. Although the former principal was not alive to see the park become a reality, Warham said through tears, he is certain that Norman is looking down and taking joy in seeing the children of C. Elizabeth Rieg enjoying the playground.
Hewlett echoed Warham’s sentiments.
“I have a feeling he is smiling from his perch above and proud to see his dream come to fruition," Hewlett said.