Johnsons Park gets a second chance at life

Johnsons Park

Johnsons Park, located in the heart of Milwaukee, was created in the 1960’s from empty space left by bulldozed homes and ranked as the most neglected park of 52 parks studied by the Milwaukee-based Public Policy Forum. 

Slowly earning its comeback, the Center for Resilient Cities has taken the initiative to revitalize the park and the surrounding community through a three-part renovation. Partnering with the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, the A. O. Smith Foundation made a donation to help complete this park project. 

As partners to the Center for Resilient Cities, the Rotary Club of Milwaukee has taken the lead role in fundraising for the Johnsons Park project. 

“We (Rotary Club of Milwaukee) have been interested in the community of Johnsons Park for decades, beginning nearly 30 years ago with the founding of Second Harvest,” Executive Director of the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, Mary McCormick said. 

“With this strong interest and past involvement in the community, in 2007 we began a partnership with the Center for Resilient Cities to help restore the Brown Street Academy schoolyard, located across the street from Johnsons Park. And since then, we’ve been greatly involved with the fundraising for the park.”

Johnsons Park 1969Johnsons Park is located in Lindsay Heights, a historic Milwaukee neighborhood that is registered on the national roster of stopping points used by the Underground Railroad to transport former slaves from southern states to Canada. Unfortunately, over time the park and neighborhood have become run down, with about 40 percent of its residents living in poverty, compared with 21 percent in Milwaukee as a whole. 

The Johnsons Park comeback project includes three parts, two of which have already been completed;

  • Alice’s Garden, a place where residents can grow their own vegetables;
  • Brown Street Academy, a revitalized and safe playground for kids;
  • Finally, Johnsons Park, a high-quality public park space for community gatherings, youth-oriented sports, and other activities that promote healthy living.

The Johnsons Park initiative is one of 13 catalytic capital projects identified during the 2008 Lindsay Heights quality-of-life planning process. Completing Alice’s Garden and Brown Street Academy in 2012, the organizers hope to complete the last stage of the project by the end of September 2015.  

Other partners of the project include Milwaukee County Parks, which owns the Johnsons Park property; the City of Milwaukee; Preserve Our Parks; Johnsons Park Neighborhood Association; Walnut Way Conservation Corps; the Boys & Girls Club for Brown Street Academy; and LISC-Milwaukee

Johnsons Park Kids Beating Drums“It’s exciting to see everyone involved is dedicated to creating a positive green space, where the community can live, play, and gather,” McCormick said.