Renovations underway at South Omaha’s Brown Park after years-long wait

The renovations to the park are expected to be complete by the end of this year
After years of hoping for a change neighbors in South Omaha are finally seeing their vision come to fruition.
Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 10:32 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2022 at 3:25 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - For decades, neighbors near the beloved Brown Park in South Omaha say the park has needed help for years.

“There was graffiti, people leaving knives and cigarettes inside the sand, there was equipment that was broken, just not well kept,” says Vanessa Macias, who lived two blocks from the park for several years.

Now, the park isn’t there. Instead, there’s a pile of sand. Macias says this is progress.

She and others have been attending community meetings for years and hope the renovations to Brown Park would actually happen.

“I found out if the community doesn’t say anything about the park, nobody’s going to do anything.”

Macias and other neighbors began meeting with the Heartland Workers Center to draw attention to the issue. The organization had been hosting “Get Out The Vote” campaigns at the Brown Park pavilion before the 2018 midterm elections, then began helping neighbors with the park issue.

That’s also when Spark CDI took over the project management and fund solicitation. The groups then got connected with the Omaha Community Foundation and Omaha Parks & Recreation, which helped with fund development and the master plan.

After years of meetings, it’s finally a reality. The design phase for the project was completed last winter.

“We’re going to have brand new play equipment, and one of the things we really, really requested is that there’s something for all ages, so we’re going to have something for little kids, the regular [playground], and then we’re going to have an adult exercise thing because we all really liked the idea of what Elmwood Park had with the adult exercise stuff,” Macias says.

Last November, Omaha City Council approved $470,000 for the renovations, which will also go toward a new picnic area with grills, more parking availability, and a sidewalk to the John Stella Ball Field.

In total, the project will cost around $570,000 with the rest of the funding coming from donors and neighbors.

The pavilion at Brown Park has already seen improvements too, which Macias says is important because it’s a polling location, and it will help encourage more community members to rent out and take advantage of the space.

The renovations to the park are expected to be complete by the end of this year and if they can get enough funding, they’re hoping to add one more element to the area by the end of next year.

“So, down there we’re going to have a little Amphitheatre, and then the big limestone stones from [the old] Gene Leahy Mall, some of them, are going to be put down there for seating.”

Correction: A previous version of this story referred to a source by an inaccurate name. 6 News regrets the error.

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