WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4) – Chelsea Park held an important place in the life of Jessica Ridgeway. It’s where the 10 year old met her friends as they headed to school, it’s where she was heading the morning she was snatched off the street.
As the search for the missing girl turned into the hunt for her murderer, the park became a focal point for the community’s grief.
And a plan to rename it in Jessica’s memory united strangers Linda Mitchell and Jon Johnston in a common cause.
“Every time I saw Jessica’s picture on TV,” Johnston said, “I thought of my granddaughter and the terrible consequences and felt badly about it.”
Johnston belongs to the Westminster Rotary Club, and that’s where he started his push.
Mitchell went to the neighbors who live around the park where she said she found overwhelming support.
“When people see it, they’re going to know this is the park, the place where Jessica left her mark,” she said. “She left her smile.”
Calls and letters to the mayor and city council put the strangers on the common path to and Don Tripp with the Westminster’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Tripp knew there was already a plan to renovate the park in 2014 but because of Mitchell and Johnston, the improvements will happen in 2013 and the park has already been renamed “Jessica Ridgeway Memorial Park.”
“We’ll attempt to raise additional money and do more improvements,” Tripp said. “We’ll celebrate her life and things she loved, things she appreciated personally.”
Jessica loved purple, ribbons and ziplines. All will find a place in her park.
While Jessica’s journey was cut tragically short, her life and spirit will be honored in the place that meant friendship to her. Organizers hope it brings comfort to her family.
“I would hope this gesture will convey to them, the community really cared and really cares for them,” Johnston said. “That’s what I hope.”
“Jessica will never be forgotten,” Mitchell promised. “Jessica will always be remembered in our hearts.”
The City of Westminster is nowaccepting donations for the park’s re-development. Visit www.westminsterlegacyfoundation.org for more information.