Playground At Coffee Park Dedicated for Murzin Family

Visitors to the playground at Coffee Park will find a plaque in tribute to a man who helped advocate for the first barrier-free playground in the city of University Park. 

The city on Oct. 22 dedicated the Murzin Family Playground at Coffee Park for Chris Murzin and his family in recognition of their legacy of advocacy for accessible public recreation spaces. 

The unanimous vote by the University Park City Council naming Murzin Playground at Coffee Park came on March 1, just more than a year after Chris Murzin, 53, was fatally shot while driving on I-20 before the South Polk Street exit ramp at 1 p.m. Feb. 11, 2021.

Chris, a medical salesman, his wife, Christina, and their children – Caroline, Dutch, and Jack – moved to University Park in 2006. Chris quickly became known as a champion for people with special needs, including their son, Jack.

Chris’ wife, Christina, told the crowd at the dedication about how the idea for the barrier-free playground started with an essay contest in which the winner would get a barrier-free playground. The Murzins’ son Jack and his classmate didn’t win the essay contest but eventually got the accessible playground with the community’s help.

“It was time for this park to be redone, and the mayor told Chris if you can raise half the funds, we’ll match it, and we’ll make it happen,” Christina said. “Y’all know Chris, he likes a challenge, and he knew he couldn’t do it on his own. We had to bring in the community.

“This wouldn’t have happened without everybody’s help,” she said. “Chris certainly spearheaded it, (but) it was a community effort.”

University Park resident George Chandler, who has a daughter with Down syndrome and got to know Chris through his work toward the playground, requested the naming of the playground for Murzin after his death.

“After he was killed, and some of the initial shock wore off, I knew that there should be some way to honor Chris,” Chandler told People Newspapers shortly after submitting the request. “His advocacy of the playground was where most people first learned about Chris and got to know him.”

On an application form asking the city to name the playground, Chandler wrote:

“Chris was known as a fierce advocate for children with special needs and was actively involved with anything and everything that supported the lives of those children. Chris was strongly involved with the local school district and the community.”

“In the mid-2000s, during a renovation of the park now known as Coffee Park, Chris began a movement, spending countless hours, to have the children’s playground designed for all children, regardless of physical or intellectual abilities.”

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at [email protected]

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