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Tomorrow night Jacksonville City Council will vote on whether to release $250,000 in funding already earmarked for Friends of Hemming Park by Mayor Lenny Curry. These funds were intended to be released in February 2016, but have been withheld as we tried to negotiate a matching $250,000 donation from Community First Credit Union to build a (would be city-owned) stage in Hemming Park. Unfortunately, City Council has been unable to come to a final agreement that would allow them to leverage this private donation and now Friends of Hemming Park is at a turning point. If we do not receive the original $250,000 from the City – Hemming Park as you know it will cease to exist.

That means no more events, no more food trucks, no more music or kids programming, no more ambassadors, no more security, no more social services for those in need, and no more progress for Downtown Jacksonville.

We are building community, improving perceptions and increasing safety. Our strategic programming and management of Hemming Park has made it a viable destination in Downtown Jacksonville and an economic driver for the region. It is with a sense of pride that we look back on our progress and impact over the past 20 months.

To date, Friends of Hemming Park has met or exceeded every performance standard in our contract with the City of Jacksonville. They asked us to host 20 events each year with over 500 people in attendance, within our first year, we hosted 49, and to-date 81. In the first year, they asked us to raise $250,000, we raised $346,000. We are also grateful for the $1.3 million of in-kind commitments from partners and sponsors including the Florida Times-Union, Brunet-Garcia and Dalton Agency. We’ve added two stages, a Kids Zone, a Reading Room, landscaping, public art, free daily community programming and a staff dedicated to making Hemming Park a clean, safe, and fun place open to all.

We invite you to review our 2014-2015 Annual Report that details the impact Friends of Hemming Park and our partners have had in our first official year managing Jacksonville’s oldest public park. We also urge you to email City Council before tomorrow’s vote to show your support for Friends of Hemming Park and in turn, continued revitalization in Downtown Jacksonville. Help us convince the City of Jacksonville that investing in Hemming Park, means investing in a Jacksonville we can all be proud of.