On Sept. 11, a ribbon-cutting celebration was held to recognize the installation of the new park pavilion and picnic tables at L.A. Wise Park. It was attended by about 30 people, ranging from kids to seniors.
In his comments, Mayor Ken McClure voiced appreciation for all those involved in the neighborhood and how this demonstrates what “community” is all about. He as well as the other speakers referenced the tragedies of 9/11 and the loss of Greene County Deputy Aaron Roberts. In times of challenge and change, both good and tragic, what is consistent in our community is the pulling together of so many to support and improve things for the future.
Springfield-Greene County Park Board Director Bob Belote spoke about the important relationships between residents and their neighborhood parks. He also credited the Neighborhood Works Initiative with making possible in three years a breathtaking range of improvements to parks which would otherwise have taken decades.
Zone 1 City Council representative Phyllis Ferguson recalled her involvement with neighborhoods, having been one of the two founding members of the Woodland Heights Neighborhood Association in 1998. She talked about the ups and downs over the years, but remarked on the importance of all the volunteers over the years that make neighborhoods better.
Bissett Elementary School Principal Marcie Stallcup talked about how the pavilion is already being used by the school with after-school activities centering on helping kids stay active, and looks forward to future use by the teachers and students as an outdoor learning facility.
I talked about how the quality of life in a neighborhood stems in part from the relationships between its residents, the neighborhood park and the neighborhood school. Together, they connect people, place and purpose toward a brighter future.
Funding for the pavilion came from the Neighborhood Works Initiative, which itself is funded via the 1/4-Cent Capital Improvements Sales Tax. Neighborhood Works is a competitive grant program managed by the City of Springfield’s Department of Public Works. Under the program, registered neighborhood associations can request funding for public infrastructure projects.
The L.A. Wise Park pavilion and picnic tables were proposed to the Neighborhood Works program by the Bissett Neighborhood Association in November 2016, and $96,000 in funding was authorized by then-City Manager Greg Burris in the spring of 2017. In their rationale for requesting a pavilion and picnic tables, Bissett cited the survey results of residents in the neighborhood conducted in September 2016, which indicated such amenities would be tops for improving the park.
Design and construction of the 30-by-40-foot pavilion was undertaken by Park Board Assistant Director Miles Park. A construction contract was awarded to Bales Construction, with construction completed over the summer. Electrification and lighting are expected to be complete in early fall.
L.A. Wise Park is a moderately sized neighborhood park located in the heart of the Bissett neighborhood. Its amenities include a walking/jogging trail, playground equipment and a small recreational soccer field. It is located adjacent to Bissett Elementary School and is one of the many school-park sites found throughout Springfield.
Until this past summer, the park had no covered facility to hold a gathering of any kind. Already, the pavilion is being used as a gathering place for families and friends, for soccer and other sports players to enjoy fellowship, and as a welcome respite from the summer heat by walkers, joggers, dog walkers, and outdoor enthusiasts. The pavilion is becoming a valuable amenity that encourages active, healthy living and sense of community.
In addition to Bissett’s pavilion, Neighborhood Works funded $304,000 in improvements to parks in Woodland Heights, Tom Watkins, Midtown, West Central, Grant Beach, Phelps Grove and Doling neighborhoods.
Each of these public infrastructure improvements came as a result of proposals submitted by their neighborhood associations. In July 2018, a second round of Neighborhood Works proposals from neighborhood associations were authorized, totaling $800,000. They include additional park improvements at L.A. Wise Park, plus a diverse range of projects in the Delaware, Greater Parkcrest, Westside, West Central, Grant Beach, Phelps Grove, and Doling neighborhoods. These projects include sidewalk improvements, alley maintenance and other park improvements.
Neighborhood Works has become a valuable vehicle by which the City and neighborhoods are partnering to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods. It is empowering residents throughout the city and the neighborhoods to determine the projects that will make the greatest positive impact to their neighborhoods.
This would not have been possible without the vision and energy of Director of Public Works Dan Smith, Neighborhood Works program director Dawne Gardner, Senior Planner Alana Owen, former City Manager Greg Burris, the support of the mayors and City Council members over the past four years, the facilities staff and director of the Park Board and the continuing efforts of the many volunteers who contribute day in and day out to the 18 registered neighborhood associations in Springfield.
Photos provided by Ian Evans.