Debby tiles

Deb MacKimmie has made it her business to reunite hundreds of Coastsiders with the tiles they created to enhance Moss Beach Park.

Moss Beach resident Deb MacKimmie was there 15 years ago when the community came together to build Moss Beach Park. She and others in the area still care about the fate of the park, which is being renovated once more.

That’s why she has made it her mission to reunite hundreds of hand-painted tiles that used to adorn the park with their Midcoast creators. With a new website up and running, MacKimmie hopes to reunite more than 150 remaining tiles with their owners.

A new Moss Beach Park is currently under construction, but the county’s renovation is just one slice of a long history of community effort to create and maintain a space for local kids to play. The land originally held a schoolhouse in the early 1900s, and in the 1970s it was donated to the Coastside Preservation and Recreation nonprofit as a new park. By the early 2000s, that park had fallen into disrepair, so members of the Moss Beach community took matters into their own hands.

“The community, in so many different ways, just came together and built this park,” MacKimmie said. “It was a pretty amazing feat.”

MacKimmie said the design of the park was a collaborative effort that incorporated both kids’ and parents’ design ideas, and that residents put in countless hours and organized many fundraising events to make its construction in the fall of 2004 a reality. 

One of these events was the tile painting session. Local potter Nancy Quickert donated the materials and helped residents paint tiles that would be placed in the park. MacKimmie’s records show there were 425 finished tiles in total, meaning many have been lost over the years.

Since the 2004 renovation, the park has gone through a second transition. The nonprofit responsible for paying taxes on the land dissolved and the parcel was almost sold by the county — until the community stepped in again. Paul and Julie Shenkman of Sam’s Chowder House donated the money needed to pay off the property taxes, and, in 2013, San Mateo County took possession of the property. Today, the county Parks Department is renovating it again.

MacKimmie said she was walking by the park a few weeks ago when she saw a ranger working on the new structure. He offered to give her the 225 tiles that remain and had been in storage while the renovations were happening.

That’s when MacKimmie got on social media and asked residents to come by and pick up their old tiles.

“Some of them are just amazing works of art,” MacKimmie said.

And when resident John Cutter stopped by to pick up his tile, he suggested creating a website to streamline the process and offered to set it up. MacKimmie took him up on the offer.

“It’s a much better way,” MacKimmie said. “I had many people who came by to look for their tile but couldn’t find it.”

MacKimmie said Cutter’s website and the flyers that neighbor Lisa Gilmour designed have both been instrumental in reuniting the tiles with their creators, and that she expects people to continue to claim their tiles over the next few weeks. She also hopes some of the lost tiles resurface as a result of her outreach. 

The newly renovated Moss Beach Park is slated to open in the spring. The Midcoast Community Council will host a grand reopening ceremony for the park, led by MCC Treasurer and Moss Beach resident Barbra Mathewson. 

 

[People looking to pick up tiles they created for Moss Beach Park 15 years ago can do so by visiting mossbeachparktiles.org.]

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