The Greater Johnsons Park Initiative will transform 19 acres in Lindsay Heights, improving green space and community resources to help this historic, central city neighborhood thrive. The RCM Community Trust has contributed a total of $200,000 and led the fundraising effort for this project valued at more than $3 million.
From its early settlement by Samuel Brown, the city’s first carpenter, Lindsay Heights grew into a center of city and civic life that played a central role in the civil rights movement. But the Expressway Commission’s now-infamous 1955 declaration of the neighborhood as a central pathway for an east-west freeway ushered in an era of decline. The freeway project was shut down, but not before 1,500 Lindsay Heights housing units were demolished, gutting the neighborhood.
In 2008, visioning and planning by Lindsay Heights community stakeholders identified 13 catalytic capital projects designed to revitalize the neighborhood – including the Johnsons Park Initiative.
The Johnsons Park Initiative has already visibly changed the Lindsay Heights landscape, completing two of its three phases by December 2012: Alice’s Garden, a two-acre urban farm that provides garden plots, program areas and facilities; and the restoration of the Brown Street Academy (BSA) schoolyard.
Many Rotarians will be familiar with the BSA schoolyard restoration, as it was the recipient of a $100,000 gift from the RCM Community Trust in 2009. The revitalized BSA schoolyard includes a Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom, which gives students the opportunity to climb, build, create, share, observe and draw conclusions in a learning landscape that is constantly changing and growing. In addition, the schoolyard serves the Boys & Girls Club and neighborhood residents during non-school hours.
The final phase of the initiative – the renovation of Johnsons Park to upgrade and add facilities that promote recreation, arts and community gatherings – will be completed in 2015. Improved sports practice fields will encourage use by the local football teams and other community partners seeking to provide t-ball, soccer and other “non-traditional” sports such as rugby. Tree-lined pathways will provide better circuits for walking and running, while new, energy-efficient lighting will allow for extended hours of safe park use year-round. Benches and bicycle racks will further enhance the park’s functional appeal.
A performance stage, named for the late John Walker, will help facilitate long sought-after community concerts and performances and promote community gatherings. John, a Rotarian for more than 30 years, was a supporter of the project from the very beginning, and was instrumental in making connections, rallying community support, and maintaining fundraising momentum. RCM has received over $40,000 in individual donations from Rotarians and other friends of John in support of this effort.
The fundraising momentum generated by Rotary once again shows the club’s power to connect partners for the greater good.