More than a year after its World War I monument was restored, a nonprofit group has teamed up with the city of Mobile to make more improvements at one of Midtown’s most visible parks.
The Stewards of Memorial Park and The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America raised roughly $250,000 to renovate the greenspace at the intersection of Airport Boulevard and Government Street.
Cammie Israel, patriotic chairwoman of the Mobile chapter of the Colonial Dames, said funds for the work came primarily from foundations and individuals.
“It was an amazing force,” she said. “It has been very positive.”
Through the nonprofit Stewards of Memorial Park, Israel’s group was able to raise the funds and the city set about hiring a contractor to begin work. The lowest bidder for the project was MDS Construction, Work Order Coordinator Jacob Laurence said. The city picked up roughly $20,000 to keep the project going, he said.
“He’s been on time and on target,” Laurence said of the contractor. “Everything done has brought the importance of the park back to the public eye.”
The work consists of “a lot of refurbishment,” Parks and Recreation Director Shonda Smith said. The funds paid to renovate the fountain and add lights to it, to rebuild the sidewalks around the park and to trim trees to improve sightlines from the two major streets that surround the park, she said.
“We redid the lighting to make them look a little more aesthetically pleasing,” Smith said.
The improvements were all part of phase one of the project, which is the biggest phase, Smith said. Phase two will consist of mostly landscaping.
Israel said there are four phases total and the group is looking to raise about $150,000 more to complete the project and finish everything in the park’s master plan. The first phase, she said, would see the most dramatic changes.
“We moved the fountain into the first phase,” Israel said. “When we envisioned this, the fountain was central to it all and had to be in the first phase. The next phase will be mostly landscaping. It’s not as significant, but it needs to be done.”
The fundraising effort is the perfect example of what a public-private partnership can accomplish, Smith said, especially when infrastructure needs get the focus when it comes to other forms of city funding.
“There’s only so much we can do with [capital improvement program (CIP)] funds,” Smith said. “Parks might not always be a priority.”
As for the work being done at the park, Israel said she is happy to see it.
“They’ve done an amazing job,” she said. “It’s like a dream come true for us. I wasn’t even sure it was going to happen.”
Outside of the master plan, the group also hopes to raise the funds to add a statue of a World War I bugler at the park. Israel said the idea for the statue came from the city’s director of special projects, Matt Anderson.
Israel’s group began a push to have the park’s World War I monument restored in 2017. District 2 CIP funds, along with a $2,000 grant helped accomplish that goal, but it also propelled the Stewards of Memorial Park toward the completion of a master plan.
The monument itself is the state’s second-largest World War I monument, Laurence said.
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