Edith Floyd is like a diminutive U.S. Navy captain of a half-sunken ship.
She wants her park back, the Fletcher Playground she adopted in the 1980s and managed to keep in ship shape until a lengthy illness put her out of commission a few years ago.
For more than 20 years, Edith organized and managed the annual park cleanups, facilitated neighborhood softball games and secured grant money through her non-profit organization — Mt. Olivet CB Patrol — to build a basketball court at Fletcher Playground and attain and maintain other park equipment.
But when she fell ill, the park got sick, too. There were others in the neighborhood who helped Edith take care of the park, but none wanted to take the lead when Captain Edith couldn’t do it anymore.
On the mid-July day when I first met Edith — who is about 5-feet tall, and hearty and healthy again — we walked through the park together to survey the damage. As she typically does, Edith wore a green Mt. Olivet CB Patrol T-shirt and ballcap and called out orders in rapid succession.
“I want my drinking fountain back,” she demanded in her usual hushed, not-so-demanding tone. “And we need to get the fence back up so people don’t drive through the park. And we have to fill in those tire ruts.”
I responded by saying, “We’ll see what we can do, Edith. Let’s just take this one step at a time.”
Edith, the park and I have taken quite a few steps forward since then. And I have learned a great deal about what she means to her community.
In addition to captaining the park, she patrols the neighborhood daily, checking the bus stops first to make sure the kids get off to school safely. Edith then drives up and down the streets, watching out for illicit activity and reporting in to local law enforcement officials when she spots a bad guy.
Edith lives within shouting distance of Fletcher Playground, in a well-kept house on Mt. Olivet Street with her husband. She invited me over one afternoon to see the work that brings out the most pride in her.
On the corner of Mt. Olivet and Van Dyke, she has an urban garden. Until recently that garden was a couple of severely overgrown and trashed out vacant lots.
To the seasoned farmer, Edith’s garden is nothing to look at. Because the lots are down the street from her house and a functioning spinkler, watering what grows there is a major issue. Plus there are remnants of the past, broken glass and the like, still sprinkled throughout the property.
Doesn’t matter. To Edith and others in the neighborhood it’s like the Garden of Eden in the center of Hell.
Speak of the devil — he must be at work in this instance — despite Edith’s heroic efforts to keep her park, her neighborhood, her ship afloat for so many years, she recently received a $500 ticket from the city for having trash in front of her house on a non-trash day.
You’ve seen the pictures. Most of the neighborhood could pass for a dump.
“It’s just not right,” Edith said of the ticket.
No, Edith, it’s not.
In fact, very little of what’s happening in my old neighborhood these days is right.