While work continues to rebuild playground equipment destroyed by fire earlier this month at two Laurel parks, city officials are inviting the community to two events that are essentially parties in the park.
The events, called Community Fun Days, are an effort by city officials to let the community know the damaged parks are still open and that work is being aggressively undertaken to rebuild the damaged playgrounds, according to city spokesman Pete Piringer.
Piringer credits Laurel Mayor Craig Moe with initiating the effort to celebrate the two playgrounds.
"We wanted to show that Parks and Recreation (Department) is committed to rebuilding the playgrounds before summer," Piringer said.
Both events will offer field games, arts and crafts and free hot dogs and snacks, and costumed characters will meet and greet.
In addition, children can create posters of how they would design the rebuilt parks. The posters will be part of a town hall meeting with Laurel children that Moe has planned in the coming weeks, Piringer said.
The first Community Fun Day will be held Tuesday, March 26 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Emancipation Community Park, 601 Eighth St. A fire March 11 destroyed the park's playground equipment, which has been removed and will be rebuilt in a different area of the park because of planned expansion of the adjacent Laurel Library, scheduled to begin in October.
The second Community Fun Day is Thursday, March 28 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Discovery Park, located at Greenhill Avenue and Harrison Drive. The first of three playground fires in March, a portion of the playground equipment at Discovery Park was destroyed March 3.
Fire investigators determined both playground fires were set intentionally, and Piringer said the city has a few leads in its investigation.
Two juveniles were arrested and charged with arson by Prince George's County Fire investigators in a third playground fire that caused around $200 in damages March 8 at Granville Gude Park.
City officials are offering a $5,000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest and conviction connected with the fires at Discovery and Emancipation parks. City workers plan to go door-to-door to distribute fliers about both the Community Fun Days and the reward for information on the two fires. Piringer said the city has a few leads, but is looking for more information.
Anyone with information on the playground fires can call the Prince George's County Fire/EMS arson tip line at 301-772-7766.
The Community Fun Days will be canceled if the weather doesn't cooperate.