People, Parks, Power: What Davey Moore Park means to Springfield's Southside

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles - People, Parks & Power - that dives into the commitment of local people working to make long-term, systemic changes to positively affect greenspaces and - in turn - the overall health and well-being of Springfield's Southside and beyond.

Davey Moore Park was known as a hub of activity for many who spent their childhoods in Springfield or raised their families near the Southside green space.

Basketball, music, cookouts and other activities regularly brought the community together.

“I grew up here in the City of Springfield,” Chris Wallace says. “Davey Moore Park kind of meant something to me.”

Wallace, who is the president of the Springfield chapter of My Brother’s Keeper and the mentor supervisor for the Springfield City School District, is just one of many who intends for Davey Moore Park to remain a key part of the lives of future generations. Private organizations, along with public entities and community members themselves, are working together to renovate and revitalize the park.

“It’s not an overnight thing,” he says. “Our kids need to see we care, and they need to see the history and value of why you take care of your parks.”

The park, at 600 S. Western Ave., has undergone changes recently, with more yet to come.

Last year the basketball courts there were renovated after an initiative Wallace began through My Brother’s Keeper raised thousands of dollars with help from Nationwide Insurance and organizations like The Conscious Connect Community Development Corporation and The Braxton Miller Foundation, along with the National Trail Parks and Recreation District. In addition, the City of Springfield has approved the construction of a skateboard park there, as well as a playground with a boxing theme.

The Conscious Connect CDCis the nonprofit organization that received a $500,000 People, Parks, and Power national grant to promote park equity. In its efforts to do that and advance its goal to revitalize the community, southside residents and visitors also are invited to complete a P3 survey about park accessibility, programming, amenities and safety.

Karlos L. Marshall, co-founder and co-executive director of The Conscious Connect CDC, could see the softball diamonds from his childhood home and says that Davey Moore Park helped to raise him.

“As a community-based organization, Chris' vision for this project represents what public-private partnerships must look like in Springfield moving forward,” Marshall says. “We understand that the National Trail Parks and Recreation District has been historically underfunded, so it’s important that we walk alongside them in the journey to improve park equity with results-based accountability.”

My Brother’s Keeper – Springfield is a strategic initiative of The Conscious Connect CDC in partnership with the Springfield City School District. Its mission is to foster brotherhood through intergenerational mentoring programs primarily  for boys and young men of color that promote identity development, servant-leadership, school and out-of-school enrichment, and career exploration.

Energizing Davey Moore Park is one of the organization’s current goals. While Wallace says the new rims and poles were an “amazing upgrade” to Davey Moore Park’s basketball courts, he also is aiming for further improvements to the park, including additional upgrades to the courts and field turf that could withstand weather and help make the park a hub for tournaments.

At times people can be too concerned about who gets credit, he says. When that happens, the kids lose.

“My Brother’s Keeper wants to be the umbrella to bring other organizations together for the common goal of the child,” Wallace says.

The organization also is honoring those who have been part of the park’s history. At its annual “Stop the Violence” cookout held this summer at the park, it paid tribute to four community “Rock of Legends.” Neal Browning, a former South High School basketball star and fixture at Davey Moore Park growing up, was one of them.

“My human interaction between (ages) 9 and 16 was important to me, and 70 percent of that was at Davey Moore Park in some capacity,” says Browning, who is a co-founder, board member and treasurer of 1159 South Community Development Corporation. The nonprofit group is working to develop and redevelop southwest Springfield.

The park was a meeting place not only for those in the immediate area, but for people throughout the city, he says. Browning envisions a future where it is once again filled with community events, games and summer programming for kids.

Davey Moore Park also could be used as a tool to help curb gun violence in the city involving teenagers, he says. To do so, young people need to be included in the conversation about how the park could be used.

“It’s on us to figure out how to use the spaces we have,” Browning says.

Cooperation between public and private organizations, along with feedback from the community, is vital.

While Browning says that cooperation has improved, there remains a lack of trust from some residents toward the city. That has the potential to change.

“Once they see you doing what you say you’re going to do, that invites cooperation and participation,” he says.

More officials seem to now recognize that they can’t say that the city is thriving if one area of that city isn’t, he says. The Southside can’t be Bechtle Avenue with its big stores and brand names – and it shouldn’t be. Instead, it should build on the neighborhood’s intimacy and strengths.

Davey Moore Park is one of those strengths.

“We want to capitalize on our uniqueness as a neighborhood,” Browning says.
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Read more articles by Diane Erwin.

Diane Erwin is a freelance writer and former reporter for the Springfield News-Sun. A graduate of Ohio State University, her articles have appeared in a number of publications in Springfield and Dayton. In addition to her journalism background, she has worked in marketing and written copy for businesses throughout the country. In her spare time, she likes to read, dream about Schuler’s donuts, and travel near and far with her husband and two children.