Cascades Park – Tallahassee, FL

More from Tallahassee, FL

Project at a Glance

  • Issue Area Community vision and values, Education and youth, Natural disaster/ resiliency, Sustainability and conservation
  • Engagement Approaches Community conversations/dialogues, Engaging traditionally marginalized groups, Racial healing
Project Description

This content is available to members only. Members, please log in below to view! Not a member? Join us now to unlock this and other exceptional content.

Cascades Park


For decades, Tallahassee struggled with how to address two major issues 1) destructive, even deadly flooding 2) the toxic wasteland on the site where the city was first founded.

Project Summary

Based on the collective vision of Tallahassee residents, Cascades Park is a $30 million, 24-acre state-of-the-art storm water management facility cleverly disguised as a world-class park. For decades, Tallahassee struggled with how to address two major issues:

  • destructive, even deadly flooding
  • the toxic wasteland on the site where the city was first founded.

Through collaborative engagement and input from all sectors – including citizens’ working groups, neighborhood commissions, community organizations, entertainers, local businesses and government – Cascades Park not only alleviated flooding issues, but rehabilitated the site of the city’s founding.

Cascade Park

From Visit Florida

Innovative planning and engineering methods were used to ‘disguise’ this storm water management and water quality improvement system into a park. The storm water system now treats 73% of the runoff from the surrounding 860-acre basin and the space encourages active lifestyles. The park is a walkable, mixed-use facility with space for recreation, reflection, civic education, and entertainment (including a 3,500 seat amphitheater) and a cutting edge water quality and flood mitigation project.

The park also provides opportunities to learn about and reflect on Tallahassee’s history. One key feature is the Smokey Hollow Commemoration – a historical tribute to the vibrant African-American neighborhood that once sat on the park grounds. In the 1960s, the city used eminent domain to forcibly dismantle Smokey Hollow.

Engagement Approaches

Rather than ignore the ugly history of the segregation and racism in this part of the community, a group of former neighborhood residents, historians, and others came together to collect oral histories and artifacts related to life in the community and to design the Smokey Hollow Commemoration. The Commemoration helps visitors to rethink historical narratives of the uprooted. The Commemoration, which connects via sidewalk to the John G. Riley Museum, features a pavilion, community and heritage gardens, interpretive panels, and spirit houses, which represent the shotgun house that was one of the housing types found in the neighborhood.

Funding for Cascades Park came from a citizen-supported penny sales tax, primarily administered by their resident-involved strategic plan, Blueprint 2000, and a multitude of public and private sources, including local and state governmental agencies and private donors. In addition to the civic engagement and education, construction of the park helped the local economy, generating 300 construction jobs, and helping to revitalize nearby Gaines Street, attracting $400 million in private sector investment.


For more information visit: or

Explore More Innovations From Communities Across the Country and Down the Road

See All Projects
View All

Thank You to Our Key Partners