[ Update ]
The Department of Leisure Studies has reinstated their connection to East St. Louis through Professor Bruce E. Wicks.
Although ESLARP is a large endeavor, we have identified an area we believe a significant yet manageable contribution can be made. Our project is the adoption of Virginia Park in the Alta Sita neighborhood. Last fall we participated in a work-weekend where many park cleanup chores were undertaken. This Spring we will make a number of trips there with students to continue that work and help restore the park as an integral part of the neighborhood. Student response has been very positive and this service learning project has proven to be both productive and rewarding.
Department Adopts East St. Louis' Virginia Park
The Department of Leisure Studies, under the guidance of Dr. Bruce Wicks, is joining the East St. Louis Action Research Project (ESLARP) to help maintain Virginia Park at a level that will facilitate greater neighborhood use and involvement. In addition to returning to the park on a regular basis to perform routine maintenance, the department hopes to being a series of small improvement projects that will cumulatively make a significant difference to this area of East St. Louis and its children.
Through the ESLARP, the University has made a financial and moral commitment to provide assistance to East St. Louis in a time of great need. ESLARP began about 10 years ago by a professor in the Urban and Regional Planning Department and quickly expanded to include other departments in the College of Fine and Applied Arts (FAA). The Department of Leisure Studies became involved through Wicks' efforts. He completed a Cultural District feasibility project in East St. Louis four years ago as part of ESLARP and established linkages with FAA faculty and in the community. This academic year, Wicks reinitiated the department's involvement through a service-learning project focused on Virignia Park.
This project provided an opportunity for students from the Department of Leisure Studies to be involved in service, to develop relationships with the community, and to participate with community residents. A resident noted, "It was quite rewarding to see kids from the neighborhood volunteering, as we all know that a neighborhood buy-in will be a key to our success. A huge amount of leaves and debris were cleaned up, and the grass was mowed on approximately two acres of the park." Ms. Reeves, a long-time resident and neighborhood organizer, commented that this was the first time that she could remember leaves having been raked in the park and that it looked great!
Source: College of Applied Life Studies Newsletter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Spring 2001, Volume 26.
U of I and Sandra Reeves are Friends of Virginia Park, Illinois Parks and Recreation. Vol 32. No. 3. May/June 2001.
Document Author(s): Bruce Wicks
Last modified: 01 May 2001, Deanna Koenigs