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Jacksonville Couple Gives Large Donation To Hemming Park, Challenges Others To Step Up

Mary McIntyre

A Jacksonville couple has donated $75,000 to continue the development of Hemming Park.

The Friends of Hemming Park nonprofit plans to use the money to keep people coming downtown.

The group’s president Wayne Wood says the block had a completely different vibe just a year ago.

“The most significant change in the park is not any single thing except what it feels and sounds like. The park feels safe. It’s beautiful. There are people in the park,” Wood said.

Local philanthropists Steve and Anne Pajcic gave $75,000 to the nonprofit as a “challenge” to other Jacksonville donors and corporations to step up. Steve Pajcic says he can only feel good about Jacksonville if he feels good about Hemming Park.

“The city let it go,” Pajcic said. “It went into disrepair and neglect, and I was so happy when Wayne and his group have stepped forward to bring this park alive again, to give it spirit [and] to make it something we can be proud of.”

Credit Mary McIntyre / WJCT News
Steve Pajcic (left) plays chess with Wayne Wood (right) in Hemming Park.

Wood says the goal of revitalizing Hemming Park is not to only fix one square block of the city. He says he wants the park to be the catalyst that revives downtown.

“We have hundreds more things we have planned for the park over the years to come,” Wood said. “And we’re going to make Hemming Park not just a lovely place to come and visit, but a showplace for the city, a real attraction that will bring people back downtown.”

On Saturday Hemming Park will host its first-ever craft and import beer festival from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The event will include tastings of more than 160 beers and ciders from all over the country.