A park connected to its community is safer, healthier, more vibrant. And a community connected to its park is safer, healthier, more vibrant.
With our Sprouts strategy, we invest in grassroots leaders and groups that anchor our parks. Community voices must play an active role in shaping the agenda for their park and our system as a whole. We support the ideas and energy of community park leaders as a form of support for Milwaukee County Parks.
Early examples of this strategy in action include:
- Collaboration on community-led mural projects in Rose Park with Friends of Rose Park and Wells Fargo, as well as in Berrien Park with Milwaukee Alliance Against Racism & Political Repression, Lucille Berrien’s family and True Skool.
- Partnership with local leaders like Camille Mays and organizations like Nearby Nature MKE, finding new ways to collaborate through continued exchange.
- Production of a youth writing competition themed around parks named Lyrics for Our Sanctuaries, yielding both tributes to our green spaces and insight from young creatives.
Steven Hunter of Nearby Nature MKE collaborated with MPF and Friends of Lincoln Park for a cleanup of green spaces, park buildings and waterways with Kohl’s volunteers.
Organizer and healer Camille Mays plays her sound bowls at County Grounds Park.
Rapper, poet and high school student Jonah Denae wrote ‘Beyond These Grounds,’ a poem that was selected as winner of Lyrics for Our Sanctuary.
Friends of Rose Park collaborated with Rozalia and Reynaldo Hernandez to create a community mural which will be installed on the Clinton-Rose Center in spring 2023.
2023 Sprouts Fund Winners
During 2023, we launched an RFP process resulting in 61 applications with over $500,000 in requests. Guided by experienced leaders on our Program Committee, Milwaukee Parks Foundation distributed $45,000 to six grassroots park activation projects connecting to focus areas of Health and Healing, Community Care, and Collective Joy. Grant awards ranged from $5,000 to $8,000 and will be implemented during the summer and fall months of 2023.
The Sprouts Fund Grant Recipients are:
Activating Sherman Park
Sherman Park Community Association, Friends of Sherman Park, Program The Parks, United Sports Club and Beckum-Stapleton Little League are delivering a slate of intergenerational community activities throughout the summer, including tennis, kickball, environmental education, farmers market, and more.
Latino Conservation Week in MKE
Zaynab Baalbaki and collaborators will lead the first series in Milwaukee celebrating Latino Conservation Week (July 15-23). Events like Biking & Birria, Tacos & Trails, Playing & Paleta, Pájaros y Pan, and Flan y fotos will take place throughout Milwaukee County Parks on Milwaukee’s South Side.
MADD 414 presents Drums Up Guns Down
Milwaukee African Drum and Dance 414 are hosting a youth camp focusing on West African drum, dance, and culture throughout Milwaukee County Parks on Milwaukee’s North Side. This project also includes Drums Up Guns Down drum circles, open to the public.
The Safe Zone
Driven by a powerful purpose to create safe and constructive opportunities for young Milwaukeeans, Trinika Walker, and collaborators are piloting her Safe Zone camp, which will include sports (especially basketball), arts, crafts, and music.
Amani Youth Council and Friends of Moody Park
Led by neighborhood youth, Amani Youth Council and Friends of Moody Park have a full summer planned at their home park. This includes a 3v3 basketball tournament celebrating the life of a council member who recently passed, events focusing on mental wellness and a series of young entrepreneur showcases.
Safe Social Space Community Healing Project
The Village Group will continue its presence in Atkinson Triangle Park, built on longstanding relationships and partnerships in the surrounding community. This includes a mobile food pantry, community cookouts, youth programming, crisis intervention, and more.
Sprouts Fund grant recipients include, clockwise starting from upper left: Keyon Malone-Jackson (The Village Group), Mabel Lamb (Sherman Park Community Association), Elizabeth Brown (Friends of Moody Park), Trinika Walker (Safe Zone), Ojumire Charleston (Milwaukee Area Drum and Dance) and Zaynab Baalbaki (ZB Consulting)
2022 Sprouts Fund
In 2022, we launched our Sprouts Fund to invest further in this emerging strategy. Guided by experienced leaders on our Program Committee (see below), Milwaukee Parks Foundation invited grassroots groups connected to high-ranked parks on Milwaukee County’s Equity Index to participate in this pilot including Atkinson, Clarke Square, Johnsons, Moody and Walker Square.
We offered grants of $5,000 to support ideas with momentum or requiring resources to get off the ground. Our core question: “Does this project belong to the park’s community?” Without exception, each conversation was brimming with potential. We heard about the desire to gather and play, as well as ambitious and exciting visions for what’s possible. We also discussed the complexities faced by a park, its community and their many stakeholders.
In fall 2022, we gave gifts to Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative, Friends of Moody Park, Northwest Side CDC and The Table. Each collaboration has led to valuable learning for the Milwaukee Parks Foundation and we are grateful to each group for their partnership.
Friends of Moody Park and the Amani Youth Council held their Mask-querade Dance Party in 2022, which included food, games, music, and of course, costumes.
When we approached Friends of Moody Park, chaired by Elizabeth Brown, the Amani Youth Council had just brainstormed a series of community holiday events centered in their park’s pavilion. Throughout the 2022 holiday season, we were able to support their community gatherings for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, each planned and hosted by young leaders from the Amani neighborhood.
Through Foodways & Fieldhands, students from Brown Street Academy will be learning in neighboring Alice’s Garden and Johnsons Park.
Alice’s Garden is located on parkland connected to Johnsons Park. We are supporting Venice Williams and The Table’s collaboration with neighboring Brown Street Academy for the Foodways & Fieldhands. This program “invites students and families, of all ethnic backgrounds, to explore the agricultural and culinary traditions of the Africans who were brought to the Americas, and of African American people.”
A path leading to the pavilion and playground on a beautiful sunny day in Clarke Square Park during summer 2022.
Clarke Square & Atkinson Triangle
Community grows at the speed of trust and in both of these parks, weather and other circumstances did not not cooperate with our original timelines. So we did not rush. We are currently working with our collaborators to remount plans in spring 2023. In both parks, this will include events organized around community resources and needs, with the potential of a new friends group for Clarke Square Park.
Program Committee || Sprouts Fund Reviewers
Summer Oaks Fund
The Ability Center
Milwaukee Public Library Foundation
Greater Milwaukee Committee
Co-Chair, Fund for Lake Michigan
Milwaukee County Parks
Milwaukee Board of School Directors | American Family Insurance
The Park People of Milwaukee County Inc.
Black Leaders Organizing Communities
Co-Chair, Michels Corporation
Milwaukee County Parks
Hmong American Women’s Association
City of Milwaukee