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Ashland, WI

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2021

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: A survey showed residents in Ashland wanted more outdoor seating in the city's downtown. As part of larger efforts to revitalize the commercial district the City worked with Ashland Main Street to install decorative benches. The City engaged teams of artists -- including college students and staff from the local food co-op -- to design artwork for the seating. Then, with the help of volunteers, project organizers then installed one bench on every block of Ashland's nine-block commercial area. Each depicts imagery related to the community's identity, including scenes from local history or ecology. Paying homage to nearby Lake Superior, several benches have a water theme. Project organizers say Ashland is known as the mural capital of Wisconsin, and the benches work with other public art installations to draw people to visit downtown.

Bismarck, ND

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2021

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: As part of Bismarck's Health in All Policies initiative, the City made improvements to its 16th Street Park, intending to create a sense of place and encourage residents to be active outdoors. To revitalize the park, project organizers installed a new bench, ADA-accessible picnic table and game table. Local artists also designed a mural for a building onsite and decorated walkways with sidewalk chalk art. To complete the activation, volunteers created designs by pushing colorful plastic cups through the park's chain link fences. Additionally, the City conducted a temporary traffic calming demonstration at a nearby roundabout in an effort to make the area safer for pedestrians.

West Memphis, AR

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2019

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: The town of West Memphis hoped to promote community connections, cycling and walking. To achieve this, the town set up three parklets in its Main Street District, located near an expanded bike trail that links West Memphis with neighboring Memphis, Tennessee. Parklets -- mini street oases created in the footprint of a parking space -- provide places to sit, talk and gather. The West Memphis parklets each feature LED lighting and public art. Sculptures created from donated bicycles distinguish two of the parklets. The other parklet features new wooden benches and an oversized sculpture of a guitar, meant to pay homage to the town's musical heritage.

Nearby AARP Community Challenge Projects

Charleston, SC

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2018

Project Category: Roadway/sidewalks/crosswalk improvement

Description: The West Ashley Greenway in Charleston is an eight-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail, which is popular with walkers, runners and cyclists. However, the greenway crosses several busy streets, leading to accidents between vehicles and pedestrians. To fix this, a team of volunteers created three artistic crosswalk murals, designed to calm traffic. They also installed signage which reminds drivers to look out for people crossing the roadway. Community members need to be able to get access to places without driving, and to feel safe when they're walking and biking, project director Katie Zimmerman said. Doing this even in small ways will get more people active and out of their cars.

Charleston, SC

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2021

Project Category: Park enhancements

Description: Hampstead Square is Charleston's oldest public green space. But the square had fallen into disrepair after years of neglect, made worse by flooding. Keep Charleston Beautiful partnered with the City of Charleston to launch a multi-year park revitalization, part of broader work to bring greenspace to the community. They installed an irrigation system and updated landscaping. To give nearby residents free internet access, they also set up a Wi-Fi hotspot. Volunteers -- including community members and local businessowners -- helped complete the work and chip in additional funding. Inspired by the progress, organizers later added a new historic marker and statue of famed Charleston blacksmith Philip Simmons, which inform visitors about the park's legacy. Since the improvements, the space has hosted health and fitness activities, youth programs and free outdoor movie screenings.

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