Our park

Our five-year old calls the park across the street “Our Park”, because that’s what he thought he heard me say the first time I took him to Erb.

He’s right, though.

Erb Park is our park.

It’s your park too.

It belongs to all of us in that wonderful, universal way all public parks belong to the people who use them.

It belongs to those of us who have lived in its shadow for more than 50 years, and it belongs to people just stopping by.

It belongs to the little ones screeching happily on the playground, and to their shade-seeking, swing-pushing, slide-catching parents. It belongs to the rowdy kids working off steam on the basketball court, and the gigglers in the gaga pit, and the athletes who set up their volleyball net in the same spot every afternoon.

It belongs to the lifeguards and the swimmers and the sunbathers and the guy I don’t know but cheered along anyway as he jogged around the park all spring.

It belongs to us all.

I heard the six gunshots fired in Erb Park Monday afternoon and I saw the swift and extremely effective response to it by the Appleton Police Department. It felt surreal to see all that yellow crime scene tape circling our beloved park and to know scared children and families had been herded into locker rooms for their safety.

As horrified as I was by the fact that someone had been wounded by a gun right there in our park, I was also determined to get back into it.

My friend Kelley had the same reaction. She and her grandchildren were at the Erb Park playground when the shooting happened, which left them understandably shaken up.

But, they walked through Erb the next day and got to meet Edison, the Appleton Police Department’s therapy dog, which turned out to be a healing experience for them all.

“I was very pleased that we were able to talk more with the police officers about what we experienced while the kids loved on Edison,” Kelley wrote in a Facebook post. “I so wish all the young kids who were more closely involved with the incident could also have this opportunity and many more to help them process their feelings and get the help needed. It’s a great time to keep calm and keep on loving and caring for all of our kids in our ever changing community.”

I really think the best thing we can do for our kids and for our community is to take them back to the park. Spend time in it and get to know the people there.

It’s your park, and it’s their park too. Beyond the exercise, the picnics and the fun, parks offer us all an opportunity to meet people in real life that we might never have known otherwise.

“We were so happy to see people in the park on our way to get donuts,” Kelley said when I asked permission to use her photo. “I really hope to spread the word that we can help by continuing to show up and getting to know these kids, just a smile perhaps. No fear!”

Kelley’s kids and grandkids, who were in the park during the shooting, returned the next day on a walk home from getting a treat at Simple Simon Bakery. They met Edison, a therapy dog, in the park and got to process their reactions with him and other members of the Appleton Police Department.
We love that park in any season, but especially in the summer.
I can’t tell you how sad it was to walk through the park Wednesday and find it empty. Come back to your park. You’ll be glad you did.
I disagree entirely with people who say it’s time to take down the basketball hoops. I think it’s time to get on those courts and hoop it up while we can.
We’ll always be grateful to live near this park. It just needs you.

13 thoughts on “Our park

  1. Our son Michael, and Tom witnessed the whole thing. They play one on one basketball there a couple times a week. Tom had Michael call 911 when he saw the young man with a gun. They heard 5 shots. Watched the one running from the shooter yelling I’ve been shot. We had a detective here at our house that night getting Tom’s statement, then to Michael’s to get his.Thank God the shooter did not randomly start shooting. It was scary!!

  2. Laura, thank you for this. I’ve met so many friends because of Our park. We love it here.
    And the APD has been fantastic with their communication and outreach.

  3. Yes! We went to pool recently on a hot humid day after the shooting. It was noticeable how the pool was not as busy as it had been a previous hot humid day just a week before. I love this town and Erb is a beautiful part of the north side. Prayers and hugs for all traumatized by the event. Thank you Appleton police for protecting us. Beautiful article that expresses what so many of us feel!

  4. Thank you for writing this! I was also at the playground with my two young daughters, my friend, and her sons when the shooting happened. The only reason we haven’t been back yet is because of our schedule, but we will be back next week for sure!

  5. Thank you for writing this beautiful piece! As neighborhood residents, we love going to Erb Park, and we need this playground for our energetic toddler. I was also at the playground with my two daughters when the shooting happened. It was so scary, but we will be back soon, and we have already been back to the pool. ❤️ I hope people remember that Erb Park has never been safer with all the support from the Appleton Police Department.

  6. Thanks for writing this, Laura. I look forward to many more fun adventures at Erb Park!

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