Resident encourages leaders to rehabilitate Murray Hill Park

Resident encourages leaders to rehabilitate Murray Hill Park
The playground at Murray Hill Park is about 15 years old and also includes two sets of swings and a splash pad.

For a 77-year-old park, the Murray Hill Park and Playground is actually in fair condition, but at least one Murray Hill resident, Jose “Junior” Lazcano, would like to see it get a little attention.

The park, located at 4208 Kingsbury St., near Ruth N. Upson Elementary School, has quite a few amenities, among them four ballfields – one of which is a fenced-in T-ball field, scoreboards, two restroom buildings, two concession stands, a basketball court, a paved walking path, a playscape and a splash pad. Unlike other parks under the responsibility of the City of Jacksonville’s Parks and Recreation Department, it also has a large parking lot, so visitors don’t have to park along the nearby residential streets.

Murray Hill Park’s baseball fields have several sets of bleachers, some wooden and some aluminum. A couple are missing parts of the supporting structure.

Murray Hill Park’s baseball fields have several sets of bleachers, some wooden and some aluminum. A couple are missing parts of the supporting structure.

There used to be five ballfields in the 10-acre park, but Murray Hill Athletic Association (MHAA) Athletic Director Tony Sotille said they allowed one to grow over in the hopes that by combining it with another ballfield it would encourage the Robert E. Lee High School baseball and softball teams to use it for practice – and maybe kick in a little money toward maintenance.

For several decades, MHAA has taken responsibility for the ballfields, one set of restrooms and a concession stand, putting toward maintenance what little money they have left after buying uniforms and baseballs and paying umpire fees.

Sotille, who has been associated with MHAA for the past 12 years as the parent of a ballplayer, a coach and, for the past three years, as athletic director, said registrations for baseball have been declining over the past several years, which means a decline in funds toward maintenance. He’s trying to get lacrosse going at the park to increase use – and maybe funds.

Lazcano, who bought a house in Murray Hill four years ago to provide a home for his partner’s two teenage cousins, first became interested in “fixing” the park when he discovered all six of the basketball hoops were missing. “There was space there, but all six were cut off,” he said.

Eventually, after offering to write a check to the City for a basketball hoop, Lazcano said one hoop was installed and one side of the courts was restriped after four months of constant badgering.

The door to the women’s restroom at the Murray Hill Athletic Association’s building was open; a peek inside revealed a debris-laden floor.

The door to the women’s restroom at the Murray Hill Athletic Association’s building was open; a peek inside revealed a debris-laden floor.

The park also needs more lighting and some of the existing lighting around the court and the fields needs to be repaired as does a fence at the back of the property, all the buildings need new roofs, and the public restrooms require attention. “Someone had lit a fire in one of them,” he said. “It’s not about adding anything new, it’s about fixing what’s there. It’s about restoration.”

Sotille said there had been a plan in 2017 to repair or replace the roofs and some were re-shingled, but the steel roofing to prevent break-ins was never installed. The bleachers are always in some state of disrepair and require maintenance, he said.

Lazcano recently walked the park with Jill Enz, manager of park development and natural resources, as well as with two of the candidates for the District 14 council seat, Sunny Gettinger and Jimmy Peluso. He said Enz indicated she would contact an electrician to look at the lights and would see about getting the back fence re-enforced.

Lazcano is also trying to plan a fundraiser at the park early next year, hoping to have games and activities on each of the ballfields so people can get a sense of the park. “It started as a joke among friends one evening, to hold a Bill Murray Day on Groundhog Day in the park,” he said. “But then I thought ‘Why not?’ Sack races, bounce houses, a local chef to serve from the concession stand, and get support from local businesses.”

If anyone is interested in helping with a fundraiser, Lazcano said to send him an email at [email protected].


By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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