Soulsville citizens advocate for improvements to Chandler Park

The Chandler Park walking trail in Soulsville is getting a makeover thanks to the efforts of a cross-sector collaboration intended to inspire more citizen advocacy for public parks.

The Chandler Park Advocacy Group is a product of a pilot program of Innovate Memphis, which works closely with the crime prevention and blight teams of the Soulsville Neighborhood Association. They worked together to survey the park to determine its needs and determined that the playground equipment, basketball court, and walking trail are damaged and unsafe.

Over the past year, the residents developed a relationship with their corporate neighbor, Lehman-Roberts, who after hearing their report, has agreed to make major repairs to the walking trail.

“The collaboration with our corporate neighbor, Lehman-Roberts, is a major win for Soulsville USA,” said Soulsville USA Site Director Rebecca Hutchinson.

“We hope that it will help to nurture this neighborhood-corporate relationship and sparks the development of future collaborative initiatives. We also see it as a way of demonstrating to our other corporate neighbors the importance of working with the neighborhood.”

The work on the park is set to begin in April and residents are now looking for corporate help to repair the basketball court and playground equipment in Chandler Park.

“There's power in numbers and you can do more when you have help,” said Hutchinson.

“Collaborative initiatives help participants to build on the strengths of each partner while increasing the collective resources. In bringing more partners to the table, collaborations allow everyone to gain ownership, making them feel a part of the community and not an outsider.”

The Soulsville Neighborhood Association is aided by a federal Building Neighborhood Capacity Program grant, Hutchinson explained.

“They have had little wins, like the spearheading the "I heart Soulsville" mural, as well as major accomplishments, like establishing the first neighborhood watch group in the community.

These wins are critical in helping to build the self-esteem of the community and encourages residents to continue moving forward and tackling larger and larger challenges. Wins help them to demonstrate what they are capable of doing and that they are not powerless.”

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Read more articles by J. Dylan Sandifer.

J. Dylan Sandifer is a freelance writer living in Memphis since 2008. They have also contributed writing and research for MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, VICE News, and Choose901.