Boston landscape architecture firm Kelsey & Gould publishes a plan for Greenville. The January 1907 report to Municipal League President Thomas Parker is titled “Beautifying and Improving Greenville, SC.” In it, Harlan P. Kelsey proposes the idea of a string of parks stretching along the Reedy River, including one in an area of west Greenville referred to as Hudson Athletic Fields. The other two would later become Cleveland Park and Falls Park.
City purchases lots from Edwin Mayberry on Westfield Street for a city incinerator and a women’s prison stockade.
Beginning in 1921, the City discusses with William Choice Cleveland the idea of building a park on land he owns along the Reedy River. In June 1924, voters approve a $110,000 bond issue to build the park and by the end of the year Cleveland has given the city 110 acres of land for Cleveland Park.
The City sets aside about $15,000 of the $110,000 bond to purchase 15 acres of marshy meadowland edging the Reedy River from Edwin Mayberry to create a park for “negro children.”
Mayberry Park opens.
The city commits money for an athletic field at Mayberry Park with bleachers and playground equipment. Football and baseball are played on the field, which the Johnny Jones Circus also uses as a fair grounds.
The School District of Greenville County purchases Enoree High School from the Enoree River Baptist Association and changes the name back to Sterling High School, making it the first black public high school in Greenville County. Sterling High School uses Mayberry Park for football, baseball and track.
As part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project drains the meadow, deepens the river and puts in tennis courts as well as more play equipment. Using a grant from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and 400 workers under the direction of City Engineer Dan Hulick, the bed of the Reedy River is modified for several miles all the way to Cleveland Park.
In a May 1934 report to City Council on its 15-year park plan, the city Parks & Recreation Department reports that "an athletic field has been constructed in Mayberry Park, a negro park of 15 acres near the old stockade. Certain areas have been drained and rough places graded, tennis courts have been build and playground equipment installed. Rock walls, bridges and seats have been constructed and considerable shrubbery planted, the work valued at about $2,000."
A new City Stockade on South Hudson nears completion at a cost of $20,000. There is discussion of moving the city police department to the building when it opens to house black men and black and white women. White men are sent to work on the county chain gang.
Mayberry Park hosts a Field Day program with proceeds benefiting Wilkinson Orphanage, a Columbia institution for black children.
City Police appropriate 200 feet at the northern end of Mayberry Park for a shooting range. The shooting range is occasionally open to the public for target practice.
Mayberry Park hosts Colored Arbor Day involving African-American children planting trees in the park.
Talk turns to recruiting a minor league baseball franchise to Greenville. And on Dec. 21, 1937, the city identifies the Mayberry Park land as a perfect site for a new ballpark. City leaders assure Joe Cambria of Baltimore that the city has addressed flooding in the area by deepening the river and that it won’t be an issue for his ballpark.
The City appropriates seven acres of Mayberry Park (about half of the 15-acre park) to build a 5,000-seat baseball stadium to be called Meadowbrook Park for the newly organized Greenville Spinners. By summer the City appropriates another 200 feet for additional parking at the ball field. African-Americans are restricted to some seats in the outfield and the Black Spinners team is allowed to play there only when the white team isn’t using the stadium.
At the City Council meeting, John McPherson recommends the purchase of 24 acres from the Westervelt Company at a price of $30,000 and three acres from A.H. Loveless for $3,000 to build a park for black children as requested by the Greenville County Council of Community Development.
He also requests that Mayor C.F. McCullough call a special meeting to consider the matter. The motion passed unanimously.
Members of the African-American community, including children, appear before City Council to press their case for a new park on the west side of Greenville. Speakers include Elias B. Holloway, Greenville's first black mail carrier, and Henry Percival, head bellman at Hotel Greenville. Percival would later establish the Negro Service League in 1946.
Also speaking in favor of the plan for a new park is Mrs. H.J. Haynsworth and Hugh Aiken of the Greenville County Council of Social Agencies, Dr. C.P. Gandy and R.O. Johnson.
Greenville Mayor C. Fred McCullough assures them their petition would be given careful consideration. The plan for the city to spend $33,000 to acquire 27 acres near Perry Avenue already had approval of the Greenville County Council for Community Development and John A. McPherson, chairman of the city Park and Tree Commission.
E.B. Holloway writes a letter to the editor published in the Greenville Piedmont making the case for a park for black children in the city.
"The negroes of this city have been seeking for some time for an outlet for the surplus energy of their boys and girls, also for people in general. It has become too dangerous for the children to play in the streets of the city or on the county roads," he wrote. "We want the park because we need it. We want the park because our social and recreational life is at stake. Please give us a park."
City Alderman J. Kenneth Cass, chairman of a special committee appointed with reference to "purchase of additional park property for Negroes adjoining Mayberry Park," moves that the matter be referred to the Finance Committee for its recommendations. The motion carries.
Elias B. Holloway returns to City Council to again plead his case for a new African-American park and presents a petition with 376 names.
What became of the plan for a new African-American park is unclear, but in January 1943 Mountain View Homes opened on the land near Perry Avenue intended for the park. The low-income housing, funded in part by $450,000 in federal money, is home to clerical workers from the Greenville Army Air Base later named Donaldson Center.
An estimated 15,000 gather along the train tracks near the Southern Station as the train transporting the body of President Franklin D. Roosevelt stops briefly in Greenville on its way from Georgia to Washington, DC.
Debate over construction of housing in Mayberry Park for returning war veterans begins with the city's approval of the site on February 8. But controversy quickly ensues over the suitability of the land near the river for veteran housing.
A letter to the editor published in The Greenville News describing the proposed area notes that "rats in this vicinity they abide there galore and some of them there use to be large as well-fed squirrels."
"Just in front of the ballpark and at the entrance to the 'Lovely Mayberry Development' stands the Greenville Stockade. Also found at the entrance is one of Greenville's oldest junk yards. Last and one of the most pleasant natural features of the place we find dear old Reedy River flowing gently by. This is good for a pleasant aroma any warm night in the spring or summer."
Within days the site is unapproved and City Council drops the idea on February 15.
City Council passes resolution expressing appreciation to Jonas Bishop and C. Henry Branyon for converting two acres of land on South Hudson Street behind the Textile Oil Company into a playground for black children. Some playground equipment recently purchase by the city has been transferred to this location.
Marshall Moore appears before City Council to ask the City to make a park for black children out of Meadow Bottom, condemned by the Board of Health as unfit for human habitation and is slated to be cleared of houses under a contract with the federal government as part of a "Slum Clearance" project, according to minutes of City Council.
Under the project, slum houses must be torn down equal in number to new houses or units built. Moore tells Council to "provide them this facility before they ask for it," adding that the issue of parks for black children is Council's responsibility. Moore considered the land suitable for a playground, swimming pool and skating rink.
Discussion references two large areas of land under consideration for parks for black children.
The Community Council of Greenville County publishes 'Greenvilles Big Idea.'
Conducted over a period of two years, the first bi-racial study of conditions in the black neighborhoods identifies the need for parks accessible to blacks.
"Opportunities for wholesome recreation are urgently needed by Greenville's Nego citizens," the report says, noting there are no city parks available to blacks and only eight "summer playgrounds," including 3 only in the planning stage.
The report went on to recommend the City "establish a large community park for Negroes with year-round recreational facilities, including swimming pool, skating rink, community center, athletic fields and other facilities usually found in large community parks."
The Comprehensive City Planning report finds that Greenville falls well short of meeting national standards for green space – one acre of park for every 100 persons in an urban area. Greenville in 1951 had less than half an acre per 100 residents.
"Play space for Negroes is badly needed," the report finds, noting that "Negroes are excluded from Cleveland Park."
"Mayberry Park, purchased for a Negro park, has never been developed. A large Negro park – neighborhood park for adults and larger play areas for Negro children – should be provided. This is probably the most pressing recreational problem confronting the urban area today."
The document recommends a comprehensive city park system, including the development of Mayberry Park and the creation of a major recreational area for blacks in the Southeastern portion of the City alongside the Sterling neighborhood.
City Council approves closing Mayberry Street among other city streets on certain days so that children can roller skate.
The City builds two tennis courts on the long-unused police firing range in Mayberry Park, as well as a recreation center.
The Greenville News reports on plans for construction of a Downtown Loop expressway. A subsequent article in 1967 describes the highway as linking I-385 with I-185 by sweeping through the west side of Greenville.
Mayberry Park hosts a Christmas party for children ages 7-13
City Council discusses the loss of Meadowbrook Park due to construction of the Downtown Loop expressway, and the potential loss of the Mayberry Recreation Center.
An early morning fire destroys Meadowbrook Park, threatening the 1972 baseball season. The cause of the fire is deemed suspicious due to the time of day. Nonetheless, the City comes up with funding to restore electricity to the park for the 1972 season. With folding chairs in the stands and chicken wire strung between utility poles to form a backstop, the last season of baseball is played at Meadowbrook Park.
The City approves the state Highway Department's plans to build a causeway through Meadowbrook Park to route the Downtown Loop expressway. This option means the department needs only 1.75 acres rather than the original 3.8 acres necessary if the road had been built on the ground. Nonetheless, City Manager John Dullea pronounces Meadowbrook Park “destroyed.”
The idea of a Downtown Loop expressway is eventually dropped, but not before the City turns over 62 houses, one-third of them dilapidated, for condemnation and clearing right of way.
By 1977 the park consists of the “poorly maintained” recreation center now housing the office of the Opportunity Industrial Center, five swings and a three-person merry-go-round. “A large park where we could provide a lot of different recreation would be a great asset to this area,” the Rev. C.S. Sanders, acting chairman of the Black Clergy of District 2 Fellowship, told The Greenville News.
In 2002, Clemson University’s Center for Community Growth and Change
publishes the Reedy River Master Plan Project under the joint sponsorship of the City and County of Greenville. The project emphasizes public input and participation to develop a master plan that would serve as a framework for development within a 16-mile stretch of the Reedy River, spanning from the river’s headwaters in Travelers Rest to Lake Conestee. The plan, which envisions the Swamp Rabbit Trail, includes designs for public parks, a farmer's market, public transportation, mixed income housing and a visitor center in the area around Mayberry Park.
Upon completion of Falls Park, the City turns its attention to the "next big project." Tom Keith, designer of Falls Park, begins sketching concepts for a new city park on the banks of the Reedy. The project represents the City's first significant downtown development on the opposite side of Academy Street.
Keith introduces the concept of a tower inside the park to lend a vertical element that could serve as the "Liberty Bridge" landmark of the park.
In the fall of 2010, the City is awarded $1.8 million in grant funding to
support a three-year planning effort titled Connections for Sustainability: Linking Greenville’s Neighborhoods to Jobs and Open Space. The City in partnership with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Transportation aims to establish connections between affordable housing, transportation options, economic development opportunities, and open space.
As part of the initial phase of the project, three major studies are completed: A city-wide housing strategy; a feasibility analysis of a bus rapid transit system and transit-oriented economic development; and a plan for a potential city park on the west side of the City.
As part of developing a master plan for a new park on the Unity Park site, a design team and the City of Greenville conduct a week-long design charrette from Feb. 21 - Feb. 28.
The charrette includes a public workshop in which residents list possible land uses and programmatic considerations for the park site. The team hosts visitors, including citizens and several classes of second- and third-grade students from A.J. Whittenberg Elementary and St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School. The students wrote on note cards the one element they really wanted to see in the park and illustrated their various ideas on long sheets of drawing paper.
In October 2013, the city publishes the Greenville Park Master Plan.
"The Master Plan for a potential, large urban park is an important tipping point for a community," the report says.
"Greenville has seen the effects of this before – most recently with Falls Park and the tremendous impact it has had on the West End and Downtown. Getting it right, in the eyes of the community and its leadership is crucial," the report says.
Greenville publishes the Greenville West Side Comprehensive Plan, the next phase in the Connections for Sustainability project. This comprehensive plan unifies components of previous studies and provides policy, development and infrastructure recommendations for the West Side based on a robust public engagement process.
The West Side is described as bounded by Pete Hollis Boulevard to the north, Pendleton Street to the south, the Greenville city limits to the west, and the West End and Central Business District to the east. The West Side study area includes three defined city neighborhoods: Southernside, West Greenville and the West End. This area also encompasses portions of Greenville’s historic textile industrial area, including parts of the old mill villages of Brandon and Woodside mills.
The plan recommends design elements for a potential 22.5-acre city park along the Reedy River that would substantially expand the existing Mayberry Park in the West Side.