Unity Park Will Complete the "Necklace of Parks" Surrounding Downtown Greenville
A Park 100+ Years in the Making
In the early 20th century, the Municipal League of Greenville commissioned nationally known landscape architect Harlan Kelsey to imagine and recommend improvements and projects that would beautify the city.
His recommendations were published in 1907 in a report called, “Beautifying and Improving Greenville, South Carolina,” which identified a series of potential parks along the Reedy River. One would become Cleveland Park less than 20 years later. Another would eventually become Falls Park nearly 100 years later. The report also identified the current Unity Park site for a third park along the Reedy River, calling it "Hudson Athletic Fields."
Mayberry Park's Segregated origins
After voters approved a $110,000 bond referendum in 1924 to build Cleveland Park, the City set aside $15,000 (the equivalent of more than $200,000 in today’s dollars) to purchase 15 acres on Mayberry Street to build a park for children not allowed to play in the segregated parks elsewhere in the city. Mayberry Park opened in 1925 and a few years later, the City committed additional funds for an athletic field with bleachers and playground equipment.
Less than a decade after creating Mayberry Park, the City used a 50-foot strip of land in the park for a police shooting range. Then, in 1938, the City voted to lease half of the land inside Mayberry Park to a Baltimore businessman at no cost to build Meadowbrook Park for an all-White minor league team. More land was taken for stadium parking and to extend leftfield.
Sterling High School MaDE Mayberry Park its home
Despite its diminished size, neighborhood residents held community gatherings, picnicked and cheered their student-athletes at Mayberry Park.
Sterling High (at right), a segregated all-Black school nearby, played football and baseball in the park and held track and field events there. In 1953, police blocked off a section of a nearby street three days a week to allow Black children to roller skate. The park was also home to Black Arbor Day events and the City constructed a small community center where dances were held. Mayberry Park remained long after public parks were integrated in the 1960s and outlived Meadowbrook Park, which burned to the ground in 1972.
Master Plan Brings Attention to Near West Side
In 2002, the Reedy River Master Plan, compiled by Clemson University, called for the construction of a new park in this area, along with the creation of a 20-mile trail stretching from downtown Greenville to Travelers Rest. The Swamp Rabbit Trail opened in 2010, bringing hundreds of thousands of walkers, runners and cyclists through the area annually and introducing them to a part of town few previously knew existed.
A Place of Unity
Today, this area will soon be a place of unity. The 60-acre Unity Park will pay homage to the legacies of the neighborhoods surrounding it and the people who brought us to where we are today. Areas of the park will be named Mayberry Field and Meadowbrook Green in honor of the rich history of Mayberry and Meadowbrook parks and nearby land owned by the City has been set aside for affordable housing, serving as a bulwark against the pressures of gentrification already impacting this area.