How to Renovate a Park | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

How to Renovate a Park

This month, community leaders broke ground for Fondren's Cherokee Heights Park renovation. Community advocate Leslee Foukal worked with the Fondren Renaissance Foundation to obtain a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 2008, the FRF received a grant for $588,900. The park will soon have a pavilion, playground, walking trails and a community garden. Foukal shares tips for getting a park in your neighborhood:

1. Find usable green space that can be renovated.
The Fondren community used Cherokee Heights as an informal gathering spot for the neighborhood, but it was just empty green space. Foukal thought the development of the park, located in West Fondren, could go hand in hand with the development of East Fondren and increase community involvement.

2. Form a committee.
The Fondren Renaissance Foundation formed the Fondren Park Committee. The committee is comprised of Fondren residents, allowing them to give input as to how the park could best serve the neighborhood.

3. Find an architect to design the park.
John Weaver of Weaver Architects used the Fondren Park Committee's suggestions to draw plans of the park so the FRF could apply for a grant. He stayed on as the park's architect after the FRF secured a grant.

4. Apply for a grant.
The FRF submitted a grant application for the park's renovation to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2007. Visit for grant information.
An organization could also apply for a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant through the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. Visit for grant information.

5. Keep the momentum going.
While the Department of Urban Housing reviewed the FRF's grant application, "things started slowing down," Foukal recalls. It's important to keep the community informed about progress being made so they'll stay excited about and interested in the development.

6. Get the grant and break ground.
The FRF held the groundbreaking for the Cherokee Heights renovation Sept. 3. It was a time for Fondren residents to come together and celebrate the progress being made in their neighborhood.

Harrell Contracting Group is constructing the park and expects the first stage—including lighting, sidewalks, walking trails and a pavilion—to be completed by the end of February 2011.

Great Good Places
Somewhere between home and work—the two places we spend the majority of our days—is a "third place." It's not home, and it's not work: It's a place where members of a community gather and interact informally. Sociologist Ray Oldenburg coined the term in the 1990s, but the idea has been around for ages. The third place could be a corner store or public park. What's essential is that it be free or inexpensive, welcoming, frequented by "regulars" and easily accessible, especially by foot. A place like this can be a sanctuary for individuals and crucial to the community's health.

On, Oldenburg suggests the beer garden, corner pub, coffeehouse, even the post office "are the heart of a community's social vitality and foundation of a functioning democracy."

"They promote social equality by leveling the status of guests, provide a setting for grassroots politics, create habits of public association and offer psychological support to individuals and communities," he writes of third places, also called "great good places."

Oldenburg warns that suburban flight and shopping-mall planning detracts from a community's ability to stay connected and engaged. "Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community. It is no coincidence that the ‘helping professions' became a major industry in the United States as suburban planning helped destroy local public life and the community support it once lent," he puts it bluntly.

So start looking. It ought to be easy to find a place around town where everybody knows your name.

What are some great third places in Jackson?
Broad Street Café
Koinonia Coffee House
• Any CUPS, especially Fondren
Sneaky Bean
• A public library
• The round table in Hal & Mal's restaurant (where author Willie Morris used to hold court)
• Corner table in JSU student union
• Lumpkins' BBQ

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