Food cart at Parks Alive event

This summer, the City of Madison hosted a great new series of events called Parks Alive! Held in parks across the city, the 31 Parks Alive events were a chance for Madisonians to come to their local park, listen to music, participate in fun activities, have a snack – or maybe dinner – and get to know their neighbors.

Parks Alive events were a great way to emerge from pandemic isolation, using our amazing City parks, resident leaders, Neighborhood Resource Teams and City resources to engage residents and reenergize park programming. And they weren’t just for fun – they helped build relationships between young people and adults, and build trust between residents, a variety of City Departments, and other neighborhood stakeholders.

Child with Free S'mores sign at Parks Alive event

One of the great things about Parks Alive is that we hired young people to help plan and implement activities at the Parks Alive events in their neighborhoods. City staff worked directly with established neighborhood-based youth service providers to involve young people in developing activities to lead, preparing something to perform, planning snacks to hand out, hosting an art station, or gathering ideas from youth and adult residents about conditions in and desires for their neighborhoods. Among the local groups that took part were Each One Teach One (EOTO), where the youth organized face painting, a bouncy house, and nerf activities; the Northside youth leadership group, where youth organized face painting and chalk drawing; and the Elver Park/Theresa Terrace Neighborhood Center, where youth organized s’more making.

Parks Alive also partnered with a wide range of groups that offered information and activities at the events. These included MSCR FIT2GO, MSCR Girls Inc., MSCR Art Cart, MSCR Outdoor Programs, DAMA Arts, Rooted, Munch Truck, Madison Reading Project, Dream Bus, UW Science Alliance, Madison Children’s Museum Roadshow, Dane County, Trash Lab, Operation Fresh Start, MAYDM, PHMDC Vaccine Clinic, Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, Madison Clerk’s office, Bike Fitchburg, Madison Civil Rights Department, Water Wagon, Madison Metro, the Madison Public Library, the Madison Fire department, and the Madison Police Department as well as several food trucks/vendors including Kona Ice, Cultura Cali, Churros Blossoms, Ty's Kitchen, Thailand in a Truck, Curt's Popcorn, Ernie's Kettle Korn, Mentoring Positives, Monsoon Siam2, and Pancho's Tacos. City staff from multiple agencies joined to welcome residents, help set up and support activities, dish ice cream and clean up.Mayor Rhodes-Conway scoops ice cream at Parks Alive event

Building and sustaining strong neighborhoods is an essential component of public safety. Indeed “fostering strong neighborhoods” is an explicit goal of Madison and Dane County’s “roadmap” for healthier, safer communities. This goal seeks to support and increase opportunities to empower communities by bringing together residents and community stakeholders – including government – to build trust, develop strong working relationships, and support resident leadership in building a foundation for addressing systemic challenges in neighborhoods. Plus – it can be fun!

I want to thank the many community members who attended and made these events possible, the many organizations that participated, and the City staff from Madison’s Community Development Division and our Neighborhood Resource Teams, who attended and supported these events and helped bring this vision to life.

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