Trailblazer: Luther Williamson

MD: Johannesburg City Parks

Why is Luther a Trailblazer?

From a derelict piece of land once used for illegal dumping to a luscious green park complete with fountains and a big-screen TV – a lot can be done in 24 hours when you have someone like Luther Williamson behind the idea.

Luther’s concept of the extreme park makeover, in which an entire park would be put together in 24 hours, was inspired by the extreme home makeover show in the USA.

Luther believed this would be an innovative way to address the huge backlog in developing facilities in communities and attract corporate support and global attention towards city parks, and thus open up opportunities for funding and sponsorship.

In 2007 his dream came true when Johannesburg City Parks created the world’s first ever 24-hour extreme park, Weltevreden Park, followed by the much bigger Dieplsloot Park in Soweto.

The environmental impact of the project is phenomenal. Townships in South Africa, more especially Soweto, are generally scarce of trees. The parks have restored beauty to the land and a sense of pride to the people.

The parks have also helped in curbing crime in some townships, as people are not as idle and can take part in activities that bring the whole community together.

Luther’s idea proved that, unlike Rome, a beautiful community park can be built in a day – and yet last a lifetime.

In his own words …

“[Through] City Parks . we must give people hope and by giving people hope, they start to see opportunities and when the opportunities arise, they start becoming inspired and once they’re inspired, they become creative and then they start to protect their own.”

Fast facts

  • Diepsloot Park in Soweto may have taken 24 hours to create, but it was more than three months in the planning.
  • One of the driving forces in building a park in 24 hours was a strong desire to place South Africa in the Guinness Book of Records.
  • Dorothy Nyembe Park in Dobsonville, Soweto was named the Best Park in the world at the Liveable Communities Awards in London.

How can you help?

Corporates can give funding for the extreme parks, while anyone can visit the parks with family and friends and enjoy the outdoors experience. You could also help reduce the carbon footprint in South Africa by planting a tree.

Story published on SAinfo on 5 August 2008.
Source: Brand South Africa