JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – James Weldon Johnson Park is getting revamped over the next three years.
The project is a part of a bigger strategic plan.
The city’s oldest park was renamed James Weldon Johnson park in 2020 and it will be the first time being redesigned since 1977, according to Liz McCoy, who is the executive director of Friends of James Weldon Johnson Park.
“The brick that has been down here since 1977 is not the most welcoming feel,” McCoy said. “We will have more green space, whether that is Astroturf or real grass. That is to be decided.”
There also may be a playground and new technology on the way.
However, before there are any blueprints and construction, people in the community are asked to submit suggestions or recommendations for what they would like to see in the park.
“We also want to make sure that the park’s design represents who we want to be for the Jacksonville Community,” McCoy said. “We want to be more welcoming. We want to be a park that celebrates our history and where history is made.”
Some people have already started doing this as at least one person wrote their suggestions on paper and put them in a designated drop box that will be in the park at certain times.
Other ways to send in your thoughts can be through social media or this website.
McCoy says there is a lot of history in the park as it’s had four different names.
It was first called City Park. Then named St. James Park because the old St. James Hotel was next door, which is now City Hall. It was later named Hemming Park after Charles Hemming, who was from Jacksonville.
The park now bears the name of Jacksonville native, James Weldon Johnson, who wrote the words to the renowned song: “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”
The 156-year-old park was also the site of Ax Handle Saturday, the racially motivated attack that happened on August 27, 1960.
The base of the Confederate monument that remains in the park was in place during the Great Fire of 1901. The statue of a Confederate soldier that stood atop the base was taken down in 2020.
“A lot of times, public discourse happens here within the park. We love that,” McCoy said. “It is right on the steps of City Hall. We want to make sure that all voices are heard, and they can be heard right here within the park.”
McCoy expects there to be public forums soon for more discussions on park designs before the actual renovation begins.
The park’s board anticipates the cost of the renovation would be around $10 million. Funding must ultimately be approved by city council.