The James and Ethel Gray Park, in Birdhaven, Johannesburg started its life as a bird sanctuary. The park was named after historian, scientist and former Johannesburg mayor in 1946, James Gray and his wife Ethel. The park covers 36 hectares and is fed by Sandspruit River that winds through a series of landscaped lawns, indigenous vegetation, walkways and benches. James and Ethel Gray Park provides a green lung in a built-up residential part of the city, providing residents in a high-density area a healthy green environment that offers a space for reflection and walking. The park, with its dam and wetlands, is home to a large variety of birds and wildlife such as insects, frogs and small mammals. Despite the park being classified as a flagship park by the City of Johannesburg, for various reasons the park deteriorated over the last few years and was in a derelict condition. The park was characterised by poor community utilisation, an accumulation of non-biodegradable waste and litter, physical attacks on park-users, a spate of murders, regular illegal entry of commercial vehicles and an increase in home invasions adjacent to the park.
In September 2019 the James and Ethel Gray Park Foundation (JEGPF) was launched as a registered non-profit organisation. This is a joint initiative of the Melrose North Residents and Ratepayers Association (MNRRA) and Birdhaven Residents Association (BRA), the Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) and the City of Johannesburg. The Foundation has initiated a rigorous campaign to rehabilitate and improve the park. The Foundation has been an exceptionally successful in transforming the James and Ethel Gray Park not just into one of the most successful and recognised urban green spaces in South Africa, but it has become a reference point and model for cooperation and collaboration between the private and public sectors, civil society and local communities.