WESTMINSTER - Purple ribbons and butterflies hang from the trees in the park where a 10-year-old little girl once played. Today they serve as a reminder of Jessica Ridgeway.
While her abduction and murder last October shocked the community, the park, which has been renamed Jessica Ridgeway Memorial Park, has become a focal point for celebrating her life.
"We worked with Jessica's family and decided that it would be really important to bring something very joyous and fun into the neighborhood and community and bring them back together," said Kathy Piper, the landscape architect with the City of Westminster responsible for redesigning the park.
Piper not only sought the input of Jessica Ridgeway's family, she also took the time to listen to the ideas and suggestions of Jessica's friends and classmates.
"They wanted to contribute somehow and that is how they can do it. They know what they like. They know what Jessica liked in the park," Piper said.
Piper took the ideas and designed a park that will feature Jessica's favorite colors, purple and green. The park will also include a large purple sculpture of a ribbon that will serve as a bench for people to sit on.
One of the goals of the park project was to bring the laughter to the park and community that Jessica brought. To accomplish that one of Jessica's favorite things will be included: knock- knock jokes.
"Jessica liked knock-knock jokes and so what we're trying to do is reflect that spirit and that fun," Piper said.
Jessica's friends and classmates are working on creating a series of knock-knock jokes that will then be etched onto stones throughout the park.
"I'm hoping it brings joy and good memories. You know we are trying to bring the community back together after such a terrible tragedy and what can't you love about kids playing on a playground," Piper said.
To date, more than a thousand residents and business have made donations to the park project that totals $410,000. They are still $40,000 short of their goal that would allow them to build the park as designed. By late March, decisions will have to be made regarding how to proceed with the project.
It is hoped that work can begin this spring on the park and it can be completed by late summer.
"We're going to get it done one way or another," said Ben Beaty, a member of the
. The foundation has been responsible for raising the funds for the project.
Experts believe that projects like this one go a long way toward healing a community.
"A park or an area, a symbol of some kind gives people a place to focus their energy. Unlike not having something like that where your energy and emotions are kind of everywhere. So I think it is a good thing. I think it allows people to move on to the next stage of grief, loss and healing," said Dr. Larry Curry, a child and family therapist.