Grand Plan

Major fundraising campaign
to kick off soon for
John Paul Park

Keller leads effort to bring Master Plan
to a reality in Madison

(June 2013) – Jill Keller has made it her passion – and the mission of the John Paul Park Conservancy –  for many years to see John Paul Park in downtown Madison, Ind., become a central part of the community. A member of the local John Paul Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which holds the deed to the park located north of Third Street, Keller has worked tirelessly to follow through with that mission.
But the dream of turning the former cemetery grounds into an active park and recreational facility, complete with a 275-seat amphitheater and stage, a nature center and ballfields, has its price.

Jill Keller

Put simply, it is an expensive plan. But what may seem insurmountable to some is but a long-term financial goal to Keller and the Conservancy. So far, its primary fundraiser has been an annual concert at the park in June by the Cincinnati Brass Band, during which school children “pass the hat” for park donations. This year’s concert is scheduled for p.m. Saturday, June 29, with a community picnic to begin at 6 p.m.
Such fundraising is unsophisticated, for sure, but they have come a long way. Since fundraising efforts began in earnest in 2010, the group has raised $20,000 to date toward the estimated $3.25 million it will take to build everything in the Master Plan, Keller said.
The Master Plan was created by Anchorage, Ky.-based architectural firm Environs Inc. The company has vast experience in city park designs, including Olmstead Park in Louisville. The Master Plan for John Paul Park calls for developing the project in three phases. In addition to the amphitheater, nature center and ballfields, the Master Plan includes a playground, trails and parking lot east of the ballfields.
The group also has hired a fundraising consultant, Louisville-based Ashley Rountree & Associates, to help generate the kind of cash it will take to meet its goal over the next five years. The company is developing a capital campaign that it will soon introduce to the community, Keller said.
The group also has local support. In March, the Madison Parks Board approved paying for half of the $8,100 for a survey of the park grounds and the area immediately around it. The board has asked Madison Mayor Damon Welch if the city will pay the other half of the survey cost from non-park funds. The city parks department maintains the park.

John Paul Park Location

“We bring the Cincinnati Brass Band in as a benefit concert, but we don’t charge admission or anything. We just rely on donations,” Keller said. “It has been hard the past few years because of the poor economy.”
John Paul Park was created in 1903 when the D.A.R. took over what had been the Old City Cemetery. The cemetery had fallen into neglect and few burials had been made there after Springdale Cemetery opened in 1836. Many of the original gravestones – those that could be salvaged – were moved to nearby Springdale Cemetery, but most of the graves remained. The graves of John Paul, the park’s namesake and the founder of Madison, and those of his family, had initially been buried at the Old City Cemetery. They were moved to Fairmont Cemetery on the Madison hilltop.
In the 1900s, the D.A.R. park committee initiated a letter-writing campaign to the governors of the 13 colonial states requesting a tree from each one to be sent to Madison and planted at the park. In time, a tree from all 13 colonial states – and trees from England, Ireland and other locales – were received and planted there.
The park today features a peaceful, wooded trail, the remnants of a stone fountain, and a ballfield but no other amenities.

• For more information, visit: www.JohnPaulPark.org.

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