Living Democracy

Love built Summerlyn Memorial Park

Summerlyn Memorial Park at Old Samson Road and Davis Street is an outdoor park on the banks of the Pea River in Elba, Alabama.

It features a pavilion, picnic tables, fire pits, grills, a walking trail and is completely accessible to people with disabilities.

The property where Summerlyn Memorial Park is located was gifted to the city of Elba from Vicki and David Bandstra in memory of their daughter, Tena Summerlyn "Summer" Bandstra. The land was first home for the Bandstra family in 1980 until a 1990 flood forced them to move to the country due to the loss of their home.

Summerlyn was born a healthy baby girl in 1987 until she contracted encephalitis in the hospital at just a few months old. She lived out her 18 plus years without benefit of mobility, speech, and many other abilities associated with having a "normal" life.

Vicki Bandstra, Summerlyn’s mother, said of the memorial park: “This was built for “Summer” and children like her so they can get out and see and listen to the birds. Summerlyn loved laying in a hammock under a big tree enjoying the sunshine, seeing and hearing leaves rustling.”

The community came together to make the park on the banks of the Pea River a reality. Mrs. Bandstra said, “Lowes found out about it, and they donated building materials and built the gazebo, the fence and the path.”

The Covenant Community Church, where the family worships, helped to lay bricks where the fire pit is located, and community members played a great role in construction of the park.

The groundbreaking ceremony took place in October 2013, and the park was dedicated two years later on April 18, 2015.

Now Mrs. Bandstra said the family encourages people to visit and even camp at the location due to its proximity to the river, which provides easy access for canoeing and kayaking as well as the amenities available at the park.

The park is accessible to the public at any time.  Mrs. Bandstra explained that finding space to park can be a problem for visitors. However, parking is also available under the nearby bridge as needed.

Looking to the future, Mrs. Bandstra said they would like to add swing sets for handicapped children to compliment the other activities that can already be done at the park. Plans also include erecting a sign upon entry that highlights the significance of the memorial park.

The family is pleased that their contribution provides space for recreation, reflection and relaxation, a fitting memorial for their beloved Summer. Mrs. Bandstra said she enjoys seeing Elba residents “come down here because it’s so peaceful.”

She said the spot is a legacy left for her daughter and a testament to how people in the community came together to create Summerlyn Park.

By Oquendo Bernard
Last Updated: July 01, 2021