Unity Park, a community-led project along the Richmond Greenway, celebrated a well-attended ribbon-cutting on Monday.
The park’s grand opening was held in conjunction with the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service, bringing hundreds of community members out to volunteer on various projects to improve their community.
It was a fitting day to celebrate the new Unity Park, which was designed and built with help from community members and stakeholders.
Unity Park runs along the Richmond Greenway from 4th through 8th streets and from 16th through 20th streets.
From 4th through 8th streets, Unity Park includes vegetable and medicinal gardens and fruit trees. From 16th to 20th, there are gardens, a community pavilion, new bathrooms, a playground, basketball courts and several art pieces including murals. A soccer lawn is coming soon.
And the improvements in that area are ongoing. Starting Feb. 1, construction of the Dirt World bike terrain park is set to begin on the Greenway between 20th Street and Carlson Boulevard. Beyond Carlson Blvd., the developing park Carlson Meadows.
About five years ago, Toody Maher, executive director of Iron Triangle’s park-building nonprofit Pogo Park, worked with the city of Richmond to apply and win a $5 million state grant to build Unity Park.
The project became the latest significant initiative by the Friends of the Richmond Greenway (FORG), a group of 17 local nonprofits working to adopt spots along the former 3.5-mile-long railroad corridor, which has gradually transitioned into a pedestrian and cyclists trail that connects residents to community centers.
But the start of improvements along the Greenway can be traced back to the late Lillie Mae Jones, who started a nonprofit group for that purpose and convinced the city to purchase the corridor for enhancements. That led to the formation of FORG. Previous to the construction of Unity Park, Urban Tilth had adopted a spot at what is now Unity Park to maintain an edible garden.