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One man’s determination transforms empty lot into community park

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What is the Charlie Burton Park? Where in Belize City can it be located? You probably have no clue, unless you are one of those fortunate south side residents who have been gifted with a secure, attractive recreational space in the middle of multiple Belize City hotspots. Today, our Love team went looking for answers and found the man behind the miracle lounging on a park bench where only a couple years ago there was only overgrown bush, rats and other unsavory critters.

The Charlie Burton park is a prime example of what one man’s determination and an incredible community effort can create. The park features, swings, slides, a basketball court, football field and walkways for the youths of residents to use. G.Michael Reid, former police press officer, and journalist told us about how it all started. 

Gee Michael Reid, Community Crusader

Gee Michael Reid, Community Crusader: “I came back and I looked at what we had here, a spot with just bush and snakes and rats and dead dogs being thrown in the area just contaminating the whole area and I saw the kids on the street running up and downplaying, the street wasn’t yet paved and all of that and it was a dangerous situation. I’m saying it’s ridiculous we have a spot here posing a danger to the community and we need space for our children to play. The idea might have been mine but the rest of it was all volunteerism, people giving, CISCO construction was primary in filling the land and clearing the land and it would not have been done without them and then we also had help from many people in the diaspora. If you see I’m sitting on one of the benches and what we did is we got donations for each of these benches, we have eight of them located around the park, we try to make it educational because we want that to be part. What we are trying to do here is to groom children to become good adults and whatever we can do to effect that end that is what we plan to do. 

Reporter: The park also hosts various events for youths of the community. Events such as back to school and Christmas drives. Other events like cricket training and scholarship grants are done by the community of the park.

Gee Michael Reid, Community Crusader: “We have an out of school, a back to school and we have a Christmas drive. So far it’s been mostly low key, people have helped because a lot of people know me and I know a lot of people. The last one was this past Sunday which was a back to school. We gave about 150 schoolbags, about 200 children attending and about 25-30 adults; the adults were quite involved in helping go along. My yard is right next door and that has basically become a part of the park. When you go around you will see that I raise some chickens back there, the children have been very good now with leaving them alone- initially, they were chasing them. Now they have grown accustomed to that, they are going under the shed if it rains, they play checkers and go and we’re going to try them with some dominos also.”

Reporter: Cisco Construction has played a big role in getting the park the way it is today. Contract manager Arsenio Burgos informed us that the company will always help with community-driven initiatives.

Arsenio Burgos, Contract Manager

Arsenio Burgos, Contract Manager: “We are very community-oriented and we will help where we can, building parks. We were quite instrumental with the St.Martin’s Parish, the family is very involved with that community so we’ve also done quite a bit of work there and continue to do work.”

Reporter: So why Charlie Burton? 

Gee Michael Reid, Community Crusader: “Charlie Burton was the initial owner of this land. He grew up directly on Front  Street on Cemetery Road I grew up right next to him. I was born and raised in a house in the same property but just on the front side. He was a disciplinarian, he tolerated no indiscipline and did everything he could to help raise everybody’s child in the neighborhood. I think we lack people like that in this day and age and my whole purpose here is to set an example of what can happen when people reach out for no particular reason just to get something done that needs to be done.”

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