2019 All-America City Finalist – Rock Hill, SC

Application Summary for the All-America City Awards:

The City of Rock Hill actively involves residents in determining the community’s future through their citywide strategic planning process, Empowering the Vision, and their economic development plan, Knowledge Park Action Plan.

These visions are realized by engaging community groups, neighborhood associations, businesses, non-profits, and governmental agencies. Collaboration is not limited to a select few; Rock Hill has increased efforts to bridge divides and develop a more equitable environment while fostering opportunities for all residents. Racial healing efforts began with the formation of the Human Relations Committee, initially formed by local ministers, black and white, in 1949. Since then, it has evolved into the Rock Hill Community Relations Council (CRC), which focuses on promoting respect, appreciation and understanding of diversity among all people.

Three project examples showing how this community leverages civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation to successfully address local issues:


1.) Impact York County

When it comes to health, there have been several organizations doing great work in Rock Hill and York County, but with very little collaboration. That was until community partners came together to create Impact York County—a coalition of health care providers and stakeholders who meet and collaborate regularly to maximize the effectiveness of health interventions throughout the county.

The community partners involved feel strongly about implementation of solution‐focused, evidence‐based interventions (EBIs), collaboration among traditional and non‐traditional partners, and healthy living initiatives for the York County community.

Examples of EBIs implemented by Impact York County include:

  • YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program– helps adults at high risk for diabetes adopt and maintain lifestyle changes to reduce risk.
  • Healthy Weight and Your Child– creates safe, fun, and active environments for children and families to explore and adopt proven methods to live a healthier lifestyle.
  • Nurse‐Family Partnership– is a maternal and early childhood health program that allows nurses to deliver support to first‐time moms.
  • The SC Tobacco Quit‐line– uses talk therapy plus nicotine replacement therapy as a treatment method for individuals coping with tobacco addiction.
  • Many Men, Many Voices– is an HIV/STI prevention intervention for black men who have sex with men (MSM) and may or may not identify as gay.
  • Reach Out and Read– incorporates books into pediatric care, encouraging families to read aloud.
  • Let’s Go! 5‐2‐1‐0– is a model to reduce childhood overweight and obesity rates with 5‐2‐1‐0 healthy food choice messages.


2.) Miracle Park

The Rock Hill community has always had robust programming for special populations. The Parks, Recreation, and Tourism (PRT) Department provides children and adults who are disabled with opportunities to participate in activities including: Bocce, Cooking Classes, Disc Golf, Kayaking, etc. The city’s strategic goals also include providing at least two cycling events for special populations, and PRT spearheads a mainstreamed summer camp for those with intellectual disabilities.

Though proud of this work, the community felt that there needed to be a physical space dedicated to special populations. The city was approached by residents and representatives from Max Abilities—formerly York County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs – about a miracle field, which is a baseball field designed for people with special needs.

Through the course of engagement efforts with families, recipients of services through Max Abilities, and those who support their work, the miracle field has become a full miracle park for those with special needs.

This transformative project has broad buy-in from community partners across the greater York County community, including several businesses, community organizations, and a cross-section of individual residents who have volunteered time and money. Additionally, Winthrop University and the city agreed to donate the site to Max Abilities.

Groundbreaking for Miracle Park is scheduled to begin in March 2019. When fully built out, this 15-acre park will include two miracle baseball fields, two multi-purpose fields, playground, walking trails, shelters, golf area, fishing pond, and a café/retail component to provide employment opportunities for these special needs individuals.


3.) Knowledge Park

In the 1970’s, the textile industry disappeared from Rock Hill, leaving abandoned buildings near the central business district that were soon vandalized. Eventually, the city tore down the problem buildings and prepared the area for redevelopment.

There was not a cohesive downtown redevelopment strategy, so after years of disjointed efforts, the Knowledge Park Action Plan (KPAP) process was born. All residents were invited to a kick-off event to establish five-year goals and develop programs for Knowledge Park (downtown) that have input from ALL parts of the community, are supported by community leadership, and serve as the basis for activities and investments. To get the information to all residents, a multi-tiered marketing strategy was implemented over social media, radio, and local TV, including paper and electronic invitations as well as the help of various boards and commissions.

Ultimately, 174 community members on eight action teams over the course of six months developed the plan. Action teams focused on: Jobs + Business Growth, Talent Development + Attraction, Marketing + Communications, Connectivity, Inclusiveness, Development, Placemaking, and Tourism. The committees worked collaboratively to develop the vision for Knowledge Park.

Knowledge Park Is….

  • A strategy for attracting jobs, businesses, and visitors to the historic center of Rock Hill
  • A commitment to creating opportunity, wealth, and prosperity for residents
  • A place in the heart of the city with a distinctive urban lifestyle

The Knowledge Park Action Plan was approved by city council in September 2018, and now the real work has begun.

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