On Friday morning at 9 a.m., Mayor Tom Barrett and several others will unveil Sunshine Park, a new pocket park located at 14th Street and North Avenue. The park serves as the first of more than 20 vacant lots in the city being turned into urban orchards and pocket parks.
The end goal of the project is to create six pocket parks and 15 fruit orchard gathering spaces across the city's North Side – namely in the sixth, seventh and fifteenth aldermanic districts, where the majority of vacant lots lie. With the parks and orchards, the project aims to increase green space; engage the area's residents in the planning, creation and maintenance of the orchards; and support food production and distribution that is both healthy and local.
In the case of Sunshine Park, the new space – built and designed by HOME GR/OWN, Walnut Way Conservation Corporation and UWM Community Design Solutions – will feature fruit trees, boulders, a rain garden and a gathering space. For future parks and orchards, project leaders will partner with UWM's School of Architecture and Urban Planning to develop an open-source prototype for "rain sheds," a storage shed with rainwater capture abilities. These in-development sheds will be installed in some of the upcoming orchards in the hopes of providing combined tool storage and irrigation for tree maintenance.
"Working with UWM’s Community Design Solutions, it is wonderful to see residents in at the ground level, designing these parks and orchards to meet the unique needs of their neighborhood," said Mayor Tom Barrett in a press release. "This is exactly the type of public/private partnership I envisioned HOME GR/OWN to foster – in this case, private business, non-profits, neighborhood groups and philanthropic organizations working together to create vibrant, fruitful spaces that revitalize neighborhoods, create safe, healthy gathering places and increase access to healthy food."