Updated: Brooklyn Center Happy Hollow Park playground destroyed in fire
By Katy Zillmer
It didn’t take long for the word that the playground at Happy Hollow Park was on fire Aug. 31 to spread.
Cars belonging to onlookers lined the dead-end street leading to the park at 5030 Abbott Ave., said area resident Ward Monroe.
Cathy Walker, an employee at the nearby Malmborg’s Greenhouse and Garden Center said they could see a crowd gathered in the park.
Malmborg’s is so close to the park, the husband of one of the employees even thought the fire was at the greenhouse and called as he drove by on Highway 100, Walker said.
But the fire was contained to the playground, said Brooklyn Center Fire Department Captain Todd Berg, who also works as the city’s streets and parks supervisor.
The fire started shortly before 3 p.m.
Some neighbors told the fire and police department crews at the scene that they saw kids smoking cigarettes under the park shelter before the playground burned, Berg said.
The fire may have started from a cigarette butt tossed into the woodchips under the playground, but the investigation into the cause is ongoing, he said.
The fire is not suspected to be intentional, Berg said.
There is a sign at the entrance to the park that states tobacco use is prohibited on the property.
Neighbors told Berg, he said, that they overall have not noticed problems with people smoking in the park.
“Someone just made a poor decision,” Berg said.
The recent dry weather also may have contributed to the fire spreading quickly to engulf the playground, he said.
There were even two minor grass fires along Highway 100 Sept. 6 due to the dry conditions, he added.
The park playground equipment remained blocked off by the police department last week.
Berg is working to determine the value of the playground equipment through the city’s insurance and to have it replaced.
But the damage to the original playground is disheartening to some neighbors who live near the park.
Melisa Kuduk and her husband Kris were at their home on Zenith Avenue near the park when the fire started.
Their daughter Hannah, 14, was especially upset when she heard about the damage later that day.
“We’re kind of mourning the loss of our park,” Melisa Kuduk said. “It was new equipment when Hannah was born.”
Hannah said she went to the park with her sister a day after the fire happened.
“I felt very, just, sad,” she said.
Hannah said she grew up playing in the park and learned how to climb and swing at the playground.
“I hope to see a new park go in there, so other kids can enjoy it still and make memories like I was able to,” Hannah said.
As the investigation into the fire continues, Brooklyn Center Police Cmdr. Tim Gannon said anyone with information can call 911 and speak with a police officer or the Brooklyn Center Police Department tip line at 763-503-3115.