How has it been 10 years?!?
I find it inconceivable that I write this blog post more than 10 years after I joined the Board of the Parks Alliance (then known as the Louisville Parks Foundation). My first year on the Board was the same year we were told we would be the nonprofit partner on this strange new event called Jack O’Lantern Spectacular. At the time, no one could know that decision would change the trajectory of the organization and put us on the path to where we are today.
The year was 2013, and we were a fledgling organization with an all-volunteer board and $10,000 in the bank. The Fischer administration and LCVB (now Louisville Tourism) were aware of the success of the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular (JOLS) at the zoo in Providence, RI, and they wanted to bring the event to Louisville. Through what must have been divine intervention, the Alliance became the fiscal agent and recipient of the net proceeds. The first few years were a bit of a struggle, but thanks to Louisville Parks and Recreation and Louisville Tourism, we raised more money each year of the event.
The designated stream of income from JOLS provided the funds to make the Alliance publicly facing in 2015 for the first time. We created a website and social media platforms, built our Board, and then used the balance of the funds to start investing in our parks. Jack O’Lantern built three playgrounds in underserved communities with a total price tag of $500K. Jack O’Lantern invested in Story Avenue Park, Breslin Park, and other smaller projects.
More importantly, Jack O’Lantern gave birth to the organization we are today. From an all-volunteer board to three full-time and one part-time staff, Jack O’Lantern was the seed that is allowing us to build a new 20-acre park in the California neighborhood. In this community, only 1% of the land is dedicated to parks and greenspace. Jack O’Lantern allowed us to launch Parks For All and be only the third city in the country to spearhead an equitable investment strategy to ensure parks that serve our residents with the highest needs are prioritized for the earliest interventions.
Who could have imagined ten years ago where we would be today?
Certainly not me. Thanks to our incredible production company for bringing your talent to our city. Thank you to Louisville Parks and Recreation and Louisville Tourism for having the vision to see what this could mean for our community. Last but not least, thank you to all our guests for supporting the event and our public parks in Louisville.
Parks Alliance of Louisville
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