Written by By Jann Leindecker, CNN
On the edge of the winding, rain-drenched Taddle Creek, near Portland, Oregon, sits a dark red statue.
It’s the creation of 14-year-old Florence Rosberg, who died in 2007. The statue of the loving student was erected at what was once Rosberg’s school — and although the memory of Rosberg is still cherished, it might not be where her funeral and memorial service are supposed to be.
It has been a long and difficult process to get the memorial spot back to the way it was. After her death, her parents struggled with how to pay for Rosberg’s Memorial Playground, which included the sculpture and two more: a giant ring and stone bridge, both of which a local business owner wanted to remove.
With the help of friends and colleagues, the family raised over $130,000 (about $205,000). A slight break was taken in 2012 when $90,000 of that was matched by the city, and the memorial playlot was restored.
But despite all the fundraising and efforts, the playground was not designated for children like Rosberg. Her parents worried that, absent a bylaw restricting handicapped access, it would be an unfit space for children with special needs.
“It would mean a lot to Florence to see this place back in use,” says Elizabeth Rosberg, Florence’s mother.
The Rosberg family, in conjunction with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Joining Forces initiative, created the Flochero Foundation in hopes of getting a special playground designation for the spot. They also want to ensure that children with special needs won’t have to miss out on the important memories that Rosberg’s memorial provides, says Rosberg.
“If they had my friends and Florence in the playground here, we could bring our friends and family here and we could pay tribute to Florence,” she says.
After lobbying City Councilors last year, support for a special playground designation was given. A public hearing was held in March, and the decision was to “speed up the process, help advocate for more resources for more enhancements.”
But almost immediately, Rosberg says that her family was told by the city that they had already taken care of the memorial playground, or could find another space for the Rosbergs.
“The city administrator claimed they had already appropriated and hired the company to design and build this playground,” says Rosberg.
Another hurdle was the way the memorial playground is split up into three separate parks. Although Rosberg thought having the different locations would help create a regional theme, that wasn’t how the parks were planned and allocated — which left Rosberg devastated.
“This seems like a routine process to me, a step-by-step plan to build more playgrounds,” she says. “The city administrator said this is not a step-by-step approach and this is what we’re going to do.”
Despite this development, and official statements from the city expressing that the process was “simplified” after hearing concerns and having the meeting, there is still a lot of work to be done. Even though the land was chosen by city officials, the details of what will go where, how much it will cost, who will work on it and what exactly is in it are yet to be worked out.
“Even though they want to use less of this special playground, I still feel like they’re disfranchising our voices and not allowing us to have the voice that we want,” says Rosberg.
The Rosbergs are relying on the community’s engagement, support and support to see the project through, especially since there’s a long way to go and a lot of potential roadblocks.
Since the idea of a memorial playground was first conceived, Rosberg says that she’s heard many opinions and perceptions of the family. Most of the complaints are negative, and she’s heard about rumors that her daughter only made ‘good grades’ because she had a ‘legal guardian.’
Still, she’s excited about the possibility of returning Rosberg’s memorial space to its childhood-filled glory, and hopes that the construction plans will eventually include more areas that could accommodate children with special needs.
“Of course, we want to move forward and get the special playground designated and put in the park where people can utilize it to bring the children together and I know that the children at Taddle Creek Park will be able to use the play lot to have an experience like they did with