City Approves Funding for Johnie McKeithen Park Pavilion
Martha Henry’s campaign to get the city of Deerfield Beach to fix Johnie McKeithen Park on Deerfield Avenue is about to be answered.
On Tuesday, the commission voted 4-0 to spend $110,000 rebuilding the picnic pavilion that burned February 10. According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, a neighbor heard explosions shortly before the pavilion caught fire. A beer can was found at the scene but investigators confirmed that no one had bought lighter fluid at a nearby filling station. Now they are exploring whether the fire had something to do with the grill -- resulting in some design changes in the newly configured structure.
“For the record,” City Manager Burgess Hanson said Tuesday, “the grill will no longer be in the pavilion.”
Instead, it will be west of the structure, on a concrete pad – something Henry said is a good start. A toddler when Johnie McKeithen Park was carved out of the 600 block of North Deerfield Avenue, Henry has seen the park evolve in the decades since her mother chose that spot for her house and family. During any given week, about 50 children clamber over the tired jungle gym or fold themselves into the single toddler swing and only full-sized swing. Teenagers use the park to hang out – and the park is showing the strain.
In August, Henry asked at a city commission meeting for help stemming the park's slow slide into decay. Weeds were growing faster than the city maintenance department could whack them. Trash had accumulated in the bushes and on the sidewalks. For someone known for spending more time in her immaculate yard than in her house, the park was a source of pain.
“I’ve been asking for a long, long, long time and every time I complained, this man and his crew would come out and take care of the park -- but it was a special trip,” she said.