The idea for a new park in Ferguson – Halpin Park, at 7533 Halpin Dr. – generated from a conversation Ella Jones, Ferguson City Council member for Ward 1, had with one of her constituents regarding an existing park (at 7486 Halpin Dr.) in Ward 3. The Ward 1 resident expressed concerns about the unsafe conditions of the park. It is too small, very dark, and slopes downward away from the road, making it a safety hazard, especially for children.
Jones and the resident were very concerned about the matter, so Jones further investigated the situation. Jones began to spearhead the project for a better location for the park. She conferred with two of her council colleagues and Ward 3 representatives, Keith Kallstrom and Wesley Bell. They discussed the problems with the existing park and explored how the neighborhood could be improved for the residents. A lot at 7533 Halpin Dr. was identified as a better site for the park.
The lot was owned by St. Louis County. In October 2016, Jones sent a letter to County Executive Steve Stenger requesting that the county consider donating 7533 Halpin Dr. to the City of Ferguson to be used as a neighborhood park. In 2017, St. Louis County made 7533 Halpin Dr. available to Ferguson for the cost of recording the deed, which was $27.
After receiving the land from St. Louis County, Jones nominated two Ferguson residents to serve on the Parks & Recreation Board: Fran Griffin, Ward 3 resident (and now council member-elect) and Phedra Nelson, Ward 1 resident and Community Wellness director of the Healthy Schools Healthy Communities Initiative for the Gateway region YMCA.
A set of concept drawings for the proposed park have been completed. Ward 3 residents – including Griffin, who is also vice president of the Southeast Ferguson Community Association – had an opportunity to review and provide input on the design of the park.
On Sunday, October 29, 2017, Jones, Kallstrom, Bell, Griffin and Nelson hosted the first Trunk N Treat and park cleanup on the lot, slated to become the new park at 7533 Halpin Dr. It was a fun and festive occasion for all who came out. After the cleanup, children played and there was food, fun, and treats for everyone.
The Halpin Park Project quickly blossomed into a neighborhood revitalization project in partnership with the St. Louis Gateway regional YMCA’s Healthy Schools Healthy Communities Initiative and Community Forward, Inc., whose mission is to create a shared vision that advances the concept of livable communities across individual municipal boundaries.
The goal of the Halpin Park Project is to provide outdoor recreational services to children and their families not otherwise available within a reasonable walking distance. The YMCA has been awarded the opportunity, through the Halpin Park Project, to develop and implement a strategy to improve the overall health of the Ferguson community.
The project will be maintained by the City of Ferguson. However, community partners, such as the Gateway region YMCA, will use the project for neighborhood-based outreach activities. As the leader of the Halpin Park Project, Nelson has given numerous presentations to businesses, organizations, and civic groups, to obtain funding and in-kind donations. Nelson’s efforts have resulted in the project receiving a grant to pay for playground equipment. Nelson and Jones are continuing their efforts to secure additional funding for the project.
Shirley Emerson is a resident of Ward 1 in the City of Ferguson and secretary of Community Forward, Inc.