Riverside’s historic park brings old friends, acquaintances together

Memorial Park Association Officers, front: Mary Jarrett, Kelly Varn and Michele Luthin; back: Tim Burleigh, Percy Rosenbloom and Matthew Cochran
Memorial Park Association Officers, front: Mary Jarrett, Kelly Varn and Michele Luthin; back: Tim Burleigh, Percy Rosenbloom and Matthew Cochran

Members of Memorial Park Association and guests were treated to an interesting look back at New York City’s Central Park from the perspective of the founder of the Central Park Conservancy, Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, who also wrote four books about the famous park, including “Saving Central Park: A History and A Memoir.”

Rogers was the keynote speaker after a reception and book signing Jan. 23 at Haskell. A San Antonio, Texas native, Rogers initiated the nation’s first public-private park partnership, the Central Park Conservancy, in 1980, providing a model for MPA to engage with the City of Jacksonville in 1987 in a similar effort, then called “Adopt-a-Park.”

Though vastly different in size, both Central Park and Memorial Park were designed by Olmsteds – the 840-acre Central Park by Frederick Law Olmsted and the six-acre Memorial Park by his sons John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.

It’s not just the parks that tie Rogers with Jacksonville. San Marco resident Susanna Barton, whose mother-in-law Agnes Danciger is on the MPA board of directors, grew up with Rogers’ two nephews and a niece in San Antonio. “Many of the San Antonio references she made in her talk, including the bit about her mom sending a dress for her first big park fundraising event from San Antonio’s Frost Bros. department store, did not slip by unnoticed!” said Barton, who also shared that people from San Antonio are very proud that that the two most iconic park conservancy groups in New York City – Central Park and the High Line (founded by Robert Hammond) – were both founded by changemakers from the Alamo.

Additionally, the event gave Riverside resident Trisha Meili the opportunity to get together with Rogers’ husband, Ted, with whom Meili serves on the board of Achilles International, a nonprofit which provides training and racing opportunities for children and adults with disabilities or traumatic injuries. Meili was the founding chair of the organization. Ted Rogers has run 33 consecutive New York City Marathons, including the 1995 race, alongside Meili.

Percy Rosenbloom III, immediate past president, figuratively turned the gavel over to new MPA President Timothy A. Burleigh. Other new officers include Mary W. Jarrett, executive vice president, Laurie N. Jarvis, secretary, and Michael M. Blackstone as vice president-at-large, while Matthew Cochran serves again as treasurer and Michele L. Luthin as vice president-at-Large. Joining the 16-member board this year are Stanton W. Hudmon, Keith Marks and Mendy Thompson.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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