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Citi Employees Help Hemming Park ‘Add Color’ With Free Labor

Ryan Benk

An army of volunteers will descend on downtown Jacksonville’s Hemming Park Saturday to begin planting gardens and making other improvements.

Friends of Hemming Park CEO Bill Prescott walked through the park Friday morning, stopping next to the Laura Street fountain. It’s surrounded by a chain-link fence.

“This is probably the most visible aspect of the park from pedestrian and vehicle traffic and also closest to where we do lunches in the park,” he said.

A public-private partnership is making the beautification project possible, after a flap over the park’s financial mismanagement threatened its city funding earlier this year.

Prescott said the nonprofit Friends are spending $60,000 in city money to rip up the brick around the fountain. Ledges at its edge are also being removed — all to make room for a new garden space and eventually new sculptures — at the park’s southeastern corner.

The plan to “add color” to the park would’ve been thousands of dollars more expensive, Prescott said, without some free labor.

“We’re going to have anywhere from 50 to 100 volunteers out here moving soil, moving mulch, and really finishing off what we’ve done here,” he said.

The volunteers this weekend are Citibank employees taking part in the company’s national partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association. Every year, local Citi employees around the country choose a local park to partner with for a community service project.

Prescott added his group plans to add more colorful gardens of native Florida plants throughout. And plans are in the works to revamp the kids’ zone, lunch area and main stage. The city recently gave the nonprofit $175,000 to make the improvements and signed six-month lease with the option of a two-year renewal.

Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk