Friends of James Weldon Johnson Park Unveils Strategic Plan
Humanities grant fortifies nonprofit organization’s growth and impact goals for the next three years
Jacksonville, Fla. — July 27, 2022 — Friends of James Weldon Johnson Park, the nonprofit organization that manages Jacksonville’s first and most historic public park, today announced the completion of a three-year strategic plan.
Friends of James Weldon Johnson Park aims to make the Downtown park a dynamic public space for fun, education and relaxation. Currently, the park hosts more than 300 events per year, including weekly events like Jazz in the Park and Live at Lunch. The majority of these events are free and open to the public, with opportunities to purchase food from local food trucks and support local artists, craftsmen, musicians and vendors. In 2021, the park drew an estimated 86,000 visitors.
The planned growth for Downtown will increase the demand for public events and green spaces, inspiring organization leaders to embark on a strategic planning process to guide the park’s growth from August 2022 through August 2025. The four key strategic issues outlined in the plan include:
- Park Redesign: The organization aims to reimagine the form and function of the park to better reflect its role in community enrichment and economic development for a thriving Downtown. Park leaders will collaborate with constituents and City Council to identify opportunities to work collaboratively toward this goal, including community input sessions, board engagement, design and capital campaign planning. The last redesign was completed in 1977; this initiative will give Friends of James Weldon Johnson Park the unique opportunity to create a new chapter in the story of what the park can be.
- Funding: Organization leaders will focus on creating sustainable, long-term funding strategies to further solidify the park’s successful public-private partnership with the City of Jacksonville. This process will include developing and implementing a comprehensive plan comprising City funding, grants, gifts from private donors and foundations, concession sales and other earned revenue.
- Name Awareness and Identity: James Weldon Johnson Park, formerly known as Hemming Park, was renamed in 2020 to honor one of Jacksonville’s most well-known native sons. In order to fully honor the legacy of James Weldon Johnson — a civil rights leader, poet, educator, lawyer and diplomat — while acknowledging the history of the space and our city, the organization will develop and implement an integrated marketing plan so the rebranded green space’s name will be more effectively shared and used within the community.
- Park Space Awareness and Identity: Friends of James Weldon Johnson Park will develop and implement a stakeholder outreach and engagement plan to continue elevating awareness and adoption of the park as a true community space. Additional tactics will include launching a volunteer program and hosting targeted events for Downtown stakeholders.
Funding for this strategic planning initiative has been provided to Friends of James Weldon Johnson Park from Florida Humanities through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. NEH is committed to Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan.
“James Weldon Johnson Park is a vital component of Downtown’s lively ecosystem,” said Liz McCoy, Executive Director of FOJWJP.
“The park is an amenity for people of all walks of life and diverse backgrounds to enjoy, learn and relax in a space that is unique to our city. We want everyone in the community to feel they have a place here –– and this plan is going to help us achieve that goal. We look forward to welcoming friends and neighbors to join us as we move forward in pursuit of the strategic goals that will guide our work into the future.”
The strategic plan was developed over the past six months in partnership with consultants DeAnn Dockery of Partners with Nonprofits and Jana Ertrachter of the Ertrachter Group. The strategic planning committee comprised 12 community leaders representing a cross-section of civic and cultural stakeholders, including:
Michael Corrigan, CEO of Visit Jacksonville
Dimitri Demopoulus, Downtown Resident
Diana Donovan, Executive Director of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville
Laura Edgecombe, Director of Development for Build Up Downtown
Nicole Hamm, SVP of Jacksonville Urban League Young Professionals
Daryl Joseph, Director of COJ Parks
Gary Monahan, Assistant Director of Development for MOCA
Bill Prescott, FOJWJP Board Chair and Partner at Heritage Capital
Mark Walker, Director of The Jessie & Senior Program Manager at the Jessie Ball duPont Fund
Jihan White, FOJWJP Marketing & Public Relations Coordinator
Terrance Johnson, FOJWJP Events & Operations Manager
Liz McCoy, FOJWJ Executive Director
The strategic plan will be presented for approval at Friends of James Weldon Johnson Park’s next board meeting on August 10, 2022, at 4 p.m. at The Jessie Ball duPont Center, located at 40 E. Adams Street. All board meetings are open to the public.
The community can view the plan in its entirety at the meeting and learn more about James Weldon Johnson Park by visiting jamesweldonjohnsonpark.org.
About James Weldon Johnson Park
Friends of James Weldon Johnson Park is a nonprofit organization founded in 2014 and contracted with the City of Jacksonville to revitalize the city’s first and most historic public park. James Weldon Johnson Park is located in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, adjacent to City Hall, the main branch of the Jacksonville Public Library, and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Our mission is to transform James Weldon Johnson Park into a modern, urban space that engages diverse communities and restores vitality to our city’s public square. We accomplish this by adding and maintaining landscaping and amenities and providing daily programming. Our park ambassadors and security welcome and share information with our guests while ensuring that James Weldon Johnson Park is clean and safe. Our programming is informed and supported by a variety of community partnerships.
For inquiries, contact Jihan White – Marketing & PR Coordinator at 904 515 5098 x 3or JihanWhite@JWJPark.org