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Park benefit

Former Louisville Mayor Armstrong
to speak at John Paul Park Dinner

Doctors Band, free Trolley rides
part of evening events

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(April 2010) – Former Louisville, Ky., Mayor and Jefferson County Judge-Executive David L. Armstrong will never forget the time as a youth when he and three other boys were all stacked onto one sled in Madison, Ind.’s John Paul Park, and just as they topped a hill, a photographer snapped a picture of them. To this day, that memory and thousands of others of his childhood and John Paul Park have helped shape his life and given him a quest to make sure other children have a neighborhood park in which to play and develop strong community ties.

Armstrong

Armstrong

Armstrong, who grew up in Madison, will be the guest speaker at the inaugural John Paul Park Conservancy Annual Spring Fundraising Dinner, which starts at 6 p.m. Friday, April 23, in the Overlook Room at Clifty Inn. He will discuss the importance of neighborhood parks and how they contribute to the legacy of a community. In addition to Armstrong’s speech and a buffet dinner, the Doctors Band will provide music for dancing, and the Madison Trolley will offer abbreviated tours of Clifty Falls State Park.
Madison city founder John Paul gave the land the John Paul Park is situated on for use as a city cemetery in 1823. The site was located outside the developed area of the town on a plateau above Crooked Creek and its floodplain. The last burial was in the late 1830s, and in 1903, The John Paul Chapter of the Indiana Daughters of the American Revolution obtained permission to create the city’s first park on the property.
Today, the park is in serious need of a major restoration and renovation, according to John Paul Chapter DAR representative Jill Keller. The John Paul Park Conservancy’s Board of Directors has put together a three-phased, multi-million dollar project plan that will eventually stabilize and secure erosion on the park’s hillside, add an amphitheater and band shell to the west end of the lower level and fix the drainage situation in the park.
“We are meeting with consulting landscape architects and hope to get engineers to give us estimates on the stabilization portion of the project,” said Keller. “We are also preparing for a feasibility study that will allow us to apply for grant money.”
The conservancy is researching grant money that may be available for the project. “We will still need matching funds, and we hope the community continues to give to the park,” said Keller. “John Paul Park is an important part of the community’s history. We need to secure it for the future.”
The fundraising dinner is just one of several events being planned to help raise funds for the historic park, according to event chairperson Mary Jo Herrala. The conservancy just received its nonprofit status, and is working to “set some parameters and structure” for more fundraisers, she said.
“We need $50,000 for the architectural project,” said Herrala. “We only have $14,000 of that, and we hope the community supports the efforts to save our park.”
She said the spring fundraiser should be a fun event for everyone. “Even if the park isn’t your thing, we have a great evening of entertainment planned.”
Armstrong, whose Louisville legacy included his signature Louisville Extreme Park, has championed neighborhood park development across the globe. “My childhood in Madison was idyllic,” said Armstrong, currently the Chairman of the Kentucky Public Service Commission, “John Paul Park was central to many of my fondest memories, and I am happy to be a part of the effort to rehabilitate and restore it.”
Armstrong believes that parks are the “legacy of the future,” but are often “taken for granted.”
“A city gains by keeping people in place. Parks help keep people in neighborhoods, and keep children in a relationship with their community,” he said. “Once a nearly forgotten park is upgraded, or a new park is established, it raises the value of neighborhood property and becomes a new feature to attract people to that community.”
Armstrong moved to Madison from Hope, Ark., in 1953 with his family. His father, Lyman, was a manager of the former Ben Franklins, a five and dime store on Main Street. His mother, Elizabeth, was a volunteer at the Madison Jefferson County Public Library.
His family’s home was on Third Street, right across from John Paul Park. Today, the First Baptist Church stands on the site of his boyhood home. “My childhood was at John Paul Park,” he said. “I credit Madison for my wonderful childhood.”
In addition to hanging out at the park, as he got older he worked washing windows for his father and other businesses along Main Street, was the first lifeguard at the former Madison Country Club, and he was also a camp counselor for the Boy Scouts at Camp Louis Ernst. He spent his summers swimming at Crystal Beach Pool and enjoyed eating at Hinkle’s Diner and Mundts.
He graduated from Madison High School in 1959 and won a track and field scholarship to Hanover College. After an injury, however, he left Hanover and finished his undergraduate degree at Murray State University in Kentucky. He went on to finish law school at the University of Louisville and spent decades in public service as a three-time Louisville mayor, a family court judge, and Attorney General of Kentucky.

• Tickets for the John Paul Park Annual Spring Fundraiser are $60 per person and $100 per couple prior to April 15. After that date, tickets are $75 per person and $125 per couple. Reservations can be made and tickets purchased by calling Mary Jo Herrala at (812) 273-2068.

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