In the summer, we surveyed neighborhood folks and they told us they want a park in the neighborhood.
The parcel on Barber Street is selected as a potential site for a park for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it’s unused and owned by the county.
In December, the Boulevard Neighborhood Association “adopts” parcel and sponsors volunteer efforts to explore the site’s suitability as a park.
A design team is formed to begin planning for the park. It includes neighborhood representatives, landscape architects, and community art enthusiasts.
In January, thirteen volunteers began limited clearing work, and a web site for the project is launched. Three more volunteer work days are organized in the months following.
A small group of volunteers and neighborhood residents gather at the site for a brief nature tour of the are and to read poetry in celebration of Earth Day, April 22.
Two UGA urban tree management students present a copy of their course project: an illustrated 21-page report that identifies trees on the site and makes recommendations for their care.
In July, Athens Land Trust agrees to help in an administrative capacity with future fundraising efforts.
About 35 neighborhood residents participate in a neighborhood charrette–a public meeting about design preferences and issues–at the ATHICA gallery space on July 26. At the charrette, residents provide feedback on park design concepts to the project’s design team.
In August and September, the design team meets to review feedback from charrette and begins work to develop a composite site plan, integrating features from four alternative designs.
In October, after the design team has finalized a composite plan, organizers meet first with Athens Clarke Co. Commissioner Kelly Girtz–whose district (at this time) includes the potential park site–to discuss how to gain approval from the commission to create a park. Girtz offers his support and sets-up an initial meeting among park project organizers with officials from ACC’s Leisure Services and Central Services departments to informally discuss park creation issues and concerns.
In February, the biggest volunteer crew yet shows up to haul out trash and other debris, trim vines, and pull weeds. Other volunteer work days follow.
In August, park organizers meet with Pam Reidy, director of ACC’s Leisure Services; Dan Magee, Park Services Division Administrator and Mel Cochran, Greenways manager to discuss how to move the park project forward, and set a target date (February 2012) for presenting a proposal to the Mayor and Commission.
Boulevard Woods is selected as a Rivers Alive project. On October 15, a crew of 12 Rivers Alive volunteers join with neighborhood volunteers to haul out a massive brush pile to help create a looped trail. Rivers Alive is an annual volunteer day organized by Hands On Northeast Georgia.
About thirty people show to enjoy a walk on the nature trail that loops through the Boulevard Woods site. Hot chocolate and cookies are served.
In October, the Boulevard Neighborhood Association creates a neighborhood park committee to help guide the project. It also votes to draft an agreement with Athens Land Trust to handle fundraising for the project and to give the new committee the go-ahead to draft any needed agreements with ACC on the park.
On December 19, Boulevard Neighborhood Association signs a Memorandum of Understanding with Athens Land Trust, a local 501 (c) 3 organization. The MOU outlines how ALT will help BNA administer fundraising for the Boulevard Woods project. The arrangement gives BNA the ability to offer donors to the project the ability to claim tax deductibility for contributions. Fundraising won’t start until the project receives an official go ahead from Athens-Clarke Co.
In March, the Athens Banner-Herald runs an editorial in support of exploring the feasibility of public/private neighborhood parks and uses Boulevard Woods as the leading example.
In April, after hearing from park supporters, Mayor Nancy Denson and Commissioner Jared Bailey requests that ACC Manager Alan Reddish direct ACC staff to review “expeditiously” our proposal for Boulevards Woods and to make recommendations for future Mayor and Commission action.
In June, ACC’s Manager and Director of Leisure Services–after meeting with us and reviewing our proposal–write a memo recommending that the Mayor and Commission take action to allow us to move ahead with our proposal.
At its July 3 regular session meeting ACC’s Mayor and Commission voted to give us the initial go-ahead to create Boulevard Woods. Specifically, they voted to: (1) Designate the 1.79 acre parcel at 298 Barber Street for use as a passive park; (2) Approve our concept plan for the park; (3) Authorize staff to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Boulevard Neighborhood Association (BNA) providing for the ongoing maintenance for a park; (4) Authorized installation of a crosswalk across Barber Street; and (5) Authorized the Mayor and ACC staff to execute the MOU, after approval by the county manager and attorney. The commission vote was 8-to-1 to give us the go-ahead.
In March, as per ACC’s request, BNA hired a professional surveyor to document property boundaries, conduct a topography survey and locate major trees on the park parcel. The work was done by Athens-based Chandler Surveying & Engineering. Boulevard Neighborhood Association, Inc. raised the funds for the survey and paid for the work through an arrangement with Athens Land Trust.
During the Spring semester, a UGA College of Environment and Design senior-level studio, under the supervision of Assistant Professor Doug Pardue, refined the concept plan. The studio’s work was used as the basis for an application to a foundation for funding for the park project.
After meeting earlier in the year with representatives from the Riverview Foundation, a Chattanooga, TN-based foundation with connections to Athens, we learned in May that the foundation has awarded a $75,000 grant to help pay for the construction of the park. Before funds are released, the park plans will need to be approved by ACC.
In May, Josh Koons and his firm, Koons Environmental Design, Inc. agree to develop the final plans for the park and to work with BNA in shepherding them through ACC’s review processes.
In September, we submit an application for “plans review” of our proposal for Boulevard Woods by ACC’s Planning Department. The plans review meeting, which involved a thorough review of our proposal, is thorough, productive and encouraging. We’ll need to make a few revisions to our plan, but the concept is intact and the next steps look promising.
In February, after having successfully made it through for both ACC’s Planning Department and Historic Preservation Commission, Koons Environmental Design, Inc. has now developed a set of construction drawings—a far more detailed plan for the park. These plans are now being reviewed by ACC.
In early March, an early email campaign generates several thousand dollars in contributions from the neighborhood and community at large. Later in March, a “Boulevard Woods Benefit Day” at Heirloom Cafe and Fresh Market and a yard sale—called BouleYard Sale featuring more than 20 yard sales throughout Boulevard—bring in more local contributions.
Thanks to efforts from Commissioners Kelly Girtz and Kathy Hoard, the Mayor & Commission indicates a willingness to cover the ongoing maintenance costs of Boulevard Woods. This means that Boulevard Neighborhood Association, Inc. will not have to raise funds for ongoing maintenance of the park (which could have amounted to $4000 annually), and instead those expenses will be covered by the ACC General Fund.
ACC officials suggest that organizers limit the cost of Boulevard Woods to less than $100,000. Doing so will allow ACC to arrange to have the park built by a third party without triggering an expensive, time-consuming bidding process. State law allows local governments to forgo a more elaborate bidding process for some public works projects that cost less than $100,000. If the project cost more, then the normal requirements would kick back in whether a third-party is involved or not.
ALT says it’s willing to sign an agreement with ACC to lease the park site for a dollar for construction purposes. When construction is complete, ALT will turn the park back to ACC to maintain as a public park. Boulevard Neighborhood Association, Inc. and its volunteers will have a role in helping ACC maintain the park, but having a professional, insured organization like ALT take on the responsibilities of overseeing the construction of the park is a big relief.
A final 30-day neighborhood-and-community focused fundraising campaign is a success. More than $18,000 is raised. Added to the money previously raised, the final campaign brings the total to more than $102,000—more than enough to pay for construction costs for the park.
Construction drawings for the park are reviewed accepted by ACC’s Planning Department. An agreement by BNA to help maintain the park is approved of by both BNA and ACC. Another agreement between ACC and Athens Land Trust, Inc. under which ALT will lease the park site for purposes of constructing the park is drafted.
ACC Mayor & Commission vote on February 3 to approve all necessary agreements and plans to allow construction of the park.
Athens Land Trust, Inc. officially leases the site from ACC for purposes of construction. On June 17, contractor Andrew Wahlers and his small firm, Cultivation, LLC begin construction work. Koons Environmental Design, Inc. supervises the construction on behalf of Athens Land Trust, Inc.
Under sunny skies, ACC Leisure Services’ ribbon-cutting ceremony for Boulevard Woods went off without a hitch on Thursday, February 4. Participating in the ribbon cutting were: Mayor Nancy Denson, Commissioner Kelly Girtz, George Fontaine Sr from the Riverview Foundation, Heather Benham from Athens Land Trust, park project organizers Dan Lorentz, Marci White, Allen Stovall, Josh Koons of Koons Environment Design, Inc, Ed Benson (whose family gave the property to the City of Athens in the 1960s), Commissioner Melissa Link, Director of ACC Leisure Services Pam Reidy; and contractor Andrew Wahlers of Cultivation, LLC.
Boulevard Woods is now officially open as a public park. An earlier ribbon cutting ceremony set for January 22 had to be canceled due to inclement weather.