Prior to 1905, Racine had just two public parks – East and West Parks. As part of his annual message to the city council on January 25, 1905, Mayor Peter B. Nelson said the city needed to invest in public parks. In order to get the process started, Mayor Nelson appointed a Parks Commission. This commission was made up of C.R. Carpenter, Michael Higgins, A.C. Hansen, F.L. Norton, and Andrew Simonson. C.A. Armstrong was named the secretary of the commission.
There was an election in April that had a question asking residents if the city should issue bonds totaling $50,000 to buy land for the purpose of developing parks. With over 3,700 people voting, the idea was shot down by 854 votes.
The city was now in an interesting situation as there was a Parks Commission but no parks for them to manage. Mayor Nelson wasn’t deterred and the commission refused to give up and held their first meeting on April 18, 1905. By early-May, the city had dedicated land near Mound Cemetery and part of the area that is by the current Washington Park for public parks.