Originally published in the Kenosha News
By Community Development Educator, Amy Greil
Public parks and open spaces have long been seen as assets in a local community.
Lincoln Park is one such Kenosha-specific asset to me as a 42-acre green space with expanses of sports fields and flower gardens, nestled within a residential neighborhood on Kenosha’s southern edge near 22nd Avenue and 70th Street.
As I skimmed the academic literature about the intrinsic value of parks and open space, I found many references to research suggesting that for many individuals and communities, park environments serve as a buffer from everyday stressors — and even as a buffer from sustained toxic stress like racism, violence and poverty.
As such, there is evidence to suggest that the simple yet challenging decision to be present and playful in a shared, public space, during the thick or thin of life, is an act of courageous compassion.
This in turn establishes a stronger, healthier sense of self-identity — for individuals and communities-at-large.
It just so happens that this past spring, a UW-Parkside art history course interviewed residents of the Lincoln Park neighborhood and captured direct accounts, shared below, that reinforce a park’s immense value.
Dennis F. — “I originally moved from Michigan and moved to Kenosha for a teaching job in 1970. Since then I have been a long-term resident of the Lincoln Park neighborhood, working as a biology teacher and calling the park my home for 40 — almost 50 — years now with my wife. We often go out and walk the perimeter of the park; that’s kind of our regular exercise routine.”
Brandon M. — “I was a professional basketball player who was born and raised in Kenosha, specifically in the Lincoln Park community. I have always believed that enjoying music in my own community creates a stronger connection for me to this local area. Before Lincoln Park Live was created as a summer music series in the park, I drove the 34 miles, Kenosha to Milwaukee, for live outdoor music. One time it ended up raining, causing me and my wife to pack up and head home. On the way home, I said to my wife, ‘You know what, I think I’m just going to do this in Kenosha.’ And my wife responded with, ‘If you said it, I know you’re going to do it.’ And I did! Check us out at www.lincolnpark.live”
Al G. — “Lincoln Park holds a sentimental value to me, providing memories like being the place where I taught my daughter to ride a bike. I invite all families to enjoy the open space and in doing so, this allows families to connect with others in the community.”
A special thanks to UW-Parkside students and faculty — and those interviewees who shared these touching testimonials demonstrating how places like Lincoln Park really can shape healthy identity.