June's Featured Volunteers - Zina Linnik Project
June 1, 2013
Volunteers play a vital role at Metro Parks Tacoma, working alongside staff members, other volunteers and the global community to jointly achieve our goals. Each month, we select an outstanding volunteer whose work we would like to recognize.
Congratulations to the students and staff from McCarver Elementary, University of Puget Sound, University of Washington, Hilltop community and Greater Metro Parks Foundation for their contributions to the Zina Linnik Project.
Last month, the Tacoma City Council recognized the Zina Linnik Project volunteers with a City of Destiny Award for their group effort which turned a time of tragedy to a moment of triumph for Tacoma.
The project began in August 2007, when students and faculty at McCarver Elementary School wanted to do something to honor their classmate Zina Linnik, who had been tragically murdered a month earlier. Their initial idea was to write a few papers and hold a memorial service for her, but when the Hilltop community began to rally around their cause, the parents and “McCarver Peacekeepers” chose to take on a far more audacious challenge —to make their neighborhood a safe place for children to play, by championing improvements for Wright Park and McCarver Park.
Landscape and Urban Studies classes from the University of Washington and the University of Puget Sound worked with the McCarver students and Metro Parks staff to create the unique park redesigns. Relying on the students’ ideas, the young designers came up with design concepts which would soon transform empty and aged landscape into two sources of great community pride.
With a price-tag of $3.5 million, there were some who said this project was destined to fail. Those skeptics greatly underestimated the resolve of Hilltop’s community. With the support of a dedicated campaign committee from the Greater Metro Parks Foundation, the Zina Linnik Project attracted contributions from more than 190 individuals and organizations. And, in a display of civic responsibility beyond their years, the McCarver students themselves testified before Tacoma’s City Council and the State legislature to request the funding needed to help get the project off the ground. Not leaving anything to chance, they also contributed thousands of dollars through t-shirt sales, bake sales and carwashes.
Thanks to the efforts of all these people, McCarver Park is now adorned with two large Ukrainian Pysanky-style Easter eggs; a brand new playground with electronic play equipment; a reading circle decorated with some of Zina’s favorite books; and “fish stick” art installations that symbolize Zina’s love of aquatic animals. The park now also has two community gardens, one of which gets used by the school to teach children how to grow and prepare food. Wright Park also received a new playground from the project, complete with a wildly popular playground-complete with outdoor musical instruments, and a beautiful sprayground.
The most pronounced impact of this project, however, lies within the hearts and minds of the students who made it a reality. By the time students marched from Wright Park to McCarver Park to mark their unveiling, teachers had reported a noticeable increase in writing skills, focus and self-esteem among the young activists. In addition, many students living in the low-income neighborhood had shifted their career goals from celebrity to civil servant, and several of them had begun to consider attending college for the first time.
The Hilltop community’s response to the loss of Zina Linnik is a historic chapter of which all of Tacoma can be proud. Walk past Wright Park on any day, and you will again hear the very sounds which were once silenced in our neighborhood—music, laughter, and children playing together in peace. The two new parks are a testament to the kind of community partnership which has earned Tacoma the title “City of Destiny.”