UP Celebrates Murzin Family

Coffee Park playground named to honor special needs advocacy

University Park’s first barrier-free playground has a new name, one honoring a family’s legacy of advocacy for children with special needs.

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 S. Polk Street exit ramp at 1 p.m. Feb. 11, 2021.

His advocacy of the playground was where most people first learned about Chris and got to know him.

George Chandler

“After he was killed, and some of the initial shock wore off, I knew that there should be some way to honor Chris,” said UP resident George Chandler, who requested the naming.

“His advocacy of the playground was where most people first learned about Chris and got to know him,” Chandler said. “So, some connection to the playground seemed like an obvious possibility.”

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.

Christina said the family was honored that Chandler wanted to name the playground for their family and that the city council agreed.

“Naming the playground Murzin Playground is the perfect tribute to all the work Chris did to help make our city more accessible and inclusive for everyone,” she said.

University Park built the recently named barrier-free Murzin Playground at Coffee Park in the mid-2000s. (Photo: Rachel Snyder) 

Chandler, who has a daughter with Down syndrome, got to know Chris shortly after the city unveiled the playground.

“He and I had several telephone discussions and exchanged emails about the effort that he had to put into getting the playground built,” Chandler said. “We loved the playground but at that time had concerns because it was relatively open to Hillcrest Avenue. At the time, my daughter was about 8 years old and very mobile.”

Chris and Chandler discussed the matter with city officials, and eventually, a fence and bushes were added to the Hillcrest Avenue side of the park.

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 rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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