In the spring of 1960, Mansfield was a quiet country town with just over 1300 residents. It didn’t have much, but thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers, it did have a park. For the last sixty years, Mansfield residents have enjoyed a city blanketed in natural beauty and free, family-friendly amenities thanks to the award-winning park system. Now encompassing over 1000 acres of land, our parks are one of the city’s most valuable assets, serving all ages, backgrounds and interests, 365 days a year. 2020 marks six decades of sunshine & swing sets, and we’re celebrating this milestone in a big way. Do you have a great memory in our parks? Share your stories here and help add to our history!
Like any superhero, our parks have a great origin story, from humble beginnings to the star they are today. Our first park, Julian Feild, officially opened as City Park in 1960. The land was purchased by the city in 1958 as a companion space to the community’s first public pool, which was opening the following year. The Baker-Hillcrest pool was owned and operated by a private company, but the city hoped to preserve the surrounding space for families to picnic and gather as they swam and played. The initial work to clear the land and build the park was organized and executed by the Mansfield chapter of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, or Jaycees. With donated materials and their own elbow grease, the Jaycees built benches, picnic tables and other simple amenities for residents to enjoy. With the pool nearby, it quickly became a beloved spot for family gatherings, church picnics and lazy afternoons. A few years later, the park was renamed to honor one of the town’s founding fathers, Julian Feild, who built the first gristmill with his partner, Ralph Man. To this day, the park is the only official use of his proper spelling, after the USPS requested the city use the more traditional spelling of field in their name to avoid confusion.
In 2001, Serenity Gardens was added to honor three Mansfield residents who had all been victims of (unrelated) violent crimes within the few years prior. Initially started by friends and family to honor MHS sophomore Adrienne Jones, it was expanded to also recognize Wendie Prescott, a Mansfield teacher, and Andrew Kline, another local teen. Today, the site remains a calm, peaceful place for reflection and solitude. Bricks can be purchased by any resident to add their loved ones to the memorial. In 2008, SmartScape gardens were implemented with the help of the Mansfield Garden Club to ensure the space was not only respectful of memories but also of the environment. The gardens use native plants and more ecologically friendly techniques to serve as a beautiful reminder that we can make an impact on the space without making an impact on the Earth. Time and again, Julian Field has represented how much Mansfield residents care about their community, coming together to help make it better for everyone.
How else do you celebrate sixty years of amazing history and community growth, than with months and months of fun?
Follow the Parks & Recreation Facebook page for weekly posts that will include throwback photos, historical pop quizzes and more fun & games. Later this month we’ll launch a big challenge open to everyone with fun prizes and great ways to enjoy all of our parks with your family!
Share your own family’s memories of your times in the parks so we can add them to our collection. We’re assembling all the photos and memories you submit into one big archive document, as well as for a community art project later this year. Photos and memories can be submitted on Facebook posts, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or on our website here. We welcome any and all contributions!
Look for the Parks & Rec tent at all of our upcoming major events as well as at open pop-ups throughout the spring. We’ll have games and treats, opportunities to share your memories in person, and details about the history—and future—of our department to explore.
This summer, our birthday celebration will wrap with a huge party to celebrate how far we’ve come and where we’re headed next. We’ll complete the community art project with your memories, play games & enjoy treats just like they did in 1960, recognize some of our park history’s most influential people, and unveil our ten year master plan, showcasing our vision for the next decade and beyond. It’s going to be an epic event you won’t want to miss, stay tuned for details!
A lot has changed in Mansfield over the last sixty years. We’ve gone from one to 25 parks, and 1300 to nearly 70-thousand residents. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the community’s passion for supporting our parks, preserving our green space, and coming together to keep improving, keep moving forward. It was evident with the construction of our very first park, and it shows in every corner of our city still today. We’re so proud to be a part of this tight-knit, passionate city and even prouder to help it celebrate sixty amazing years of history and progress. Grab your party hats and join the fun!