A Park for All
Todd Beamer Park in Fresno, Calif.
By Dawn Klingensmith
In the end, Todd Beamer stood for patriotism, decisive action and heroic sacrifice. But before he uttered that now-famous call to action—"Let's roll"—on United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, Todd Beamer stood for family. He also loved sports and believed in the importance of staying fit and involving kids in physical activities.
On Feb. 26, 2010, Todd Beamer Park in Fresno, Calif., opened to the public. Planning for the long-awaited park began in 2004.
"It memorializes what he did and what he stood for. From everything I've heard, he believed in providing sports opportunities for kids," said landscape architect Corbin Schneider of Verde Design, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm that designed the park.
Todd Beamer Park provides sports opportunities and more. About six acres of vacant land were developed into the neighborhood park memorializing the man whose actions helped prevent hijackers on Sept. 11 from slamming into another target.
After Flight 93 was hijacked, passengers making calls with in-plane and cell phones learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Beamer, a 32-year-old husband, father and businessman, used the phone on the back of a plane seat to report to an operator what was happening onboard, including plans to storm the cockpit, overpower the hijackers and fly the plane into the ground if necessary. Beamer's last audible words before carrying out that plan were, "Are you guys ready? Let's roll."
At least three other facilities have been named for Beamer, including a New Jersey post office, a Washington high school and a student center at his alma mater, Wheaton College in Illinois.
Besides Beamer's heroism, his namesake park honors his love of sports and the two semesters he spent at California State University in Fresno.
The park sits on 6.4 acres and includes lighted basketball courts and soccer fields, a skatepark, a water play area, a shaded play area, a picnic pavilion, barbecue pits, a shaded game table, a circular path with exercise stations, a dog park, restrooms and a parking lot.
But though the park is named for Beamer, it's very much the neighborhood's park.
Beamer would have liked that, and the way the park came about as part of a democratic process guided by community input. As such, people of all ages can find something in the park geared to them, Schneider said, though kids were top of mind as the project developed.
The vacant lot had been intended as a park for years, with money being raised through residential development fees. Having waited so long, the city moved forward without sufficient funds to pay for everything on the community's wish list, with plans to add amenities as funds became available. Neighbors helped with the prioritizing.