After the last few years’ renaissance, inquiring minds have been wondering what is in store for Hemming Park’s future. We thought it was best to hear the update from our friends at Hemming Park directly…
Jacksonville’s Oldest Public Park Gets A New Facelift During a Collaborative Beautification Project
Friends of Hemming Park, a nonprofit organization, was contracted by the City of Jacksonville in 2017 to manage its oldest public park. Since inception, placemaking projects were implemented along with scheduled amenities and programming. Significant improvements continue to be made, including friendly and visible ambassadors and dedicated security, the addition of two stages for entertainment, moveable tables and chairs, an open-air outdoor seating area called Charlie’s Cafe situated next to the bronze statue of U.S. Congressman Charles E. Bennett, a Kids’ Zone, and a concentrated effort to soften some of the park’s hard spaces in the park, which have remained unchanged for 30 years.
COMMUNITY COLLABORATIONS CONTINUE
Under our watch, we have benefited from collaborative community business partnerships, such as those with MOCA Jacksonville (Museum of Contemporary Art), Jacksonville Public Library (Main), Sweet Pete’s, and Candy Apple Cafe. Our dedicated Social Services Coordinator works directly with individuals in the park and library who need assistance, which has resulted in more than 3,000 points of contact, creation of more than 300 resumes, and placement of more than 50 people in housing. We continue to present and support large-scale events, such as the First Wednesday Art Walk, GastroFest, Bourbon & BBQ, and the Hemming Park Beer Festival.
WE ARE FACING EACH CHALLENGE AND PROVIDING SOLUTIONS
Residents are recognizing the value of the park by using it as a focal point for press conferences, meetings, gatherings, tourist destinations, and field trips. Although great things continue to happen, we have had recent challenges. For instance, as a transit station for Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), we have seen an increase in pedestrian traffic as well as loitering and panhandling. The closing of the Jacksonville Day Resource Center (October 2016) resulted in the park becoming a place for transients and other people in need of social services to gather and meet. So, we were proactive and hired Central Security Agency to provide private security to enforce the park rules and deter nuisance activity from sunrise to sunset every day. The result has been a decline in criminal activity, increased safety, and a more welcoming and clean destination for everyone to enjoy.
PARK UPGRADES AND IMPROVEMENTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Earlier this year, Friends of Hemming Park was able to receive generous support from the Mayor and City Council to continue its mission and receive a six-month contract extension to provide leadership to oversee upgrades to the park and secure additional funding of $40k and a $175k city grant earmarked for capital improvements. These improvements coupled with daily cleanliness and safety measures by Park Ambassadors and Security Staff will continue into fourth quarter. An additional boost from the City and $10k grant from the National Recreation & Parks Association allowed our hard-working staff, CitiVolunteers and BrightView Landscapes’ Jason Secura to join together to present Citi’s 12th Annual Global Community Day on June 24. Keep Jacksonville Beautiful and JaxParks donated tools for the community project.
THE HEMMING BUZZ BEGINS
The fountain ledges and brick pavers along Laura Street were prepped to receive topsoil and mulch by Danis Construction. Next, we added wood stain and sealant to the Cafe Stage, and trashcans were creatively painted green by a caring family. Main Made Studios added decorative posts and links around the fountain, too. All of these changes have started a buzz about a more friendly park – it’s become a park with a vibe!
Our goals are to add softer elements in the existing design as well as to ultimately make the park more aesthetically pleasing and welcoming. In the coming months, Friends of Hemming Park plans to complete capital improvements and to install a one-of-a-kind sculpture garden with MOCA Jacksonville, The Cultural Council, key stakeholders, and other volunteer groups. And, you can join in the fun – become a FoHP member today! Come on over to the park!