Two years after securing the first grant to rejuvenate half-century-old Minnie Barr Park, representatives of Jacksonville Memorial Hospital and its partners in the renovation formally dedicated the space on Monday.
“It has been an extraordinary community project with significant financial support and volunteer hours,” said Lori Hartz, director of community health for Jacksonville Memorial Hospital.
Since the project’s beginning in 2019, organizers have raised more than $115,500. Scores of volunteers have dedicated time to install and restore playground equipment and provide an expanded sports court. In addition, landscaping, new fencing and security lighting make for a safe space for families to enjoy.
“I love that it’s not been just one group of people – it’s been our whole community – doing this work to make Minnie Barr Park a better place for everyone,” said Polly Pulley, community leader and director of the Spirit of Faith Soup Kitchen. “It’s been wonderful to see cars over at the park and families cooking out and children playing on the equipment. It’s been a blessing.”
Local sponsors of the Minnie Barr Park revitalization project include the Tracy Family Foundation ($28,000); the city of Jacksonville ($25,000); Jacksonville Rotary Club and Rotary District 6460 ($10,300); Jacksonville Memorial Hospital ($13,000); Passavant 5K and 10K races ($8,089); Jacksonville Children’s Foundation ($8,000); Kiwanis Club of Jacksonville ($5,000); Sunrise Rotary ($2,850); Amvets ($200); Aldi ($100); and Ameren, Illinois, which provided an in-kind donation of security lighting.
“Hopefully, this is the start of something big to draw more people out to the park to see what we’re doing as a community,” said Pulley.
The COVID-19 pandemic postponed completion of the project, which launched in 2019 with a $15,000 grant from Kaboom!, a national nonprofit that helps build play spaces in neighborhoods that lack municipal investment and resources.
From there, the renovation of Minnie Barr Park, located in northwest Jacksonville, grew in scope and in local support.
“When we initiated the project, there were limited places for people to gather and spend time with family and friends in the neighborhood,” said Hartz. “While the park is centrally located, it was due for new equipment and a facelift.”
In 2020, two play structures were added. Volunteers with the local Rotary and Kiwanis service groups helped with installation. In 2021, the park’s basketball court, one of the most popular spots in the park, was replaced and doubled in size.
“Playgrounds are vital resources because having that open-air, green space helps strengthen our kids physically, mentally, socially and emotionally,” said Hartz. “Although it caused our project to take longer to complete, the COVID-19 pandemic really highlighted a need for easily accessible parks and playgrounds for our kids.”