Show your support for Boulevard Woods tonight

Whether Boulevard Woods gets built or not is now in the hands of the Mayor and Commission.

They are set to vote on the project at their regular session meeting tonight (Tuesday, Feb. 3). The meeting starts at 7 pm at City Hall.

If they vote to give a green light, we’ll be able to break ground on constructing Boulevard Woods this spring.

Support for Boulevard Woods looks strong from the Mayor and the Commissioners at this point. But a show of continuing support from the community won’t hurt.

You can do that by joining us in person tonight at City Hall for the meeting. Or by sending a quick message to the Mayor and your Commissioner expressing your support for Boulevard Woods. Or you can do both.

Here’s contact information for the Mayor and Commissioners.

We got on the agenda for Feb. 3!

Boulevard Woods was officially added to the agenda for a final Mayor and Commission vote on Feb. 3 at tonight’s agenda setting meeting.

This happened without objection—and is a positive sign (but no guarantee) for the likely outcome at the Mayor and Commission’s Feb. 3 regular session meeting.

We’ll have more updates coming soon, but mark your calendars! We’ll need supporters on hand at the next Mayor and Commission meeting—Tuesday, Feb. 3, at City Hall, starting at 7 pm.

Here’s a link to remarks made at the agenda setting meeting  in support of Boulevard Woods.

Boulevard Woods is coming up at agenda setting meeting

Next week, at the Mayor and Commission’s agenda setting meeting, Boulevard Woods will likely take another step closer to becoming a real park. At its Tuesday, Jan. 20  meeting, the Mayor and Commission will consider a motion to include Boulevard Woods in its regular session agenda for Feb. 3.

If Boulevard Woods does get on the agenda for the regular session—and that seems likely at this point—then the Mayor and Commission will vote Feb. 3 to give final approvals to the project.

A few project organizers will be present at the agenda setting meeting to speak briefly in support of the project and be on hand to answer any questions. It doesn’t seem necessary to flex lots of neighborhood and community muscle in support of the project at this meeting. But if you’re interested, please join us.

The agenda setting meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 20 at City Hall. The meeting starts at 7 pm.

The fact that Boulevard Woods is coming up at the agenda setting meeting means that a lot of behind-the-scenes work has been accomplished since our fundraising efforts concluded successfully about three months ago in October.

Josh Koons and staff at Koons Environmental Design, Inc. have done lots of work in preparing final construction drawings. Staff in Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services, Planning, Transportation and Public Works departments and the Manager’s and Attorney’s Offices have also done much to finalize agreements and plans. ACC Commissioners Kelly Girtz and Jared Bailey and former Commissioner Kathy Hoard played key roles in keeping the project moving forward.

Athens Land Trust, Inc. provided lots of help during this phase, too—and are continuing to do so. The same is true for Boulevard Neighborhood Association’s steering committee.

We’ll keep you posted.

FYI, you can find the draft agenda report on Boulevard Woods here.

4 Important Project Updates

It’s been a while since we’ve reported on our progress in making Boulevard Woods a reality. But a lot has been happening behind the scenes, including these four developments.

1.  Maintenance costs covered. 

Thanks to efforts from Commissioners Kelly Girtz and Kathy Hoard, there is now support from the commission for ACC 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.

2. $99,999 limit.

ACC has now suggested we 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.

This means we may have to make some changes to our original plans to reduce costs, but we’ll still be able to build able to build a safe, distinctive and graceful neighborhood park.

3. Athens Land Trust, Inc. offers more help. 

ALT is 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.

The construction of the park will be funded by money raised by the Boulevard Neighborhood Association, Inc. and held in an earmarked account at ALT. Thank you, Athens Land Trust!

4. $14,063 left to raise.

To pay for as much of our original plan as possible and yet remain under the $99,999 limit imposed by state law, we’ll need to raise $14,063 as of this writing. Had we still been aiming for our original target of $125,000, we’d be about $35,000 short. We’re so close now! Watch for the announcement of our final fundraising push soon, but if you can’t wait, you can contribute now right here.



Boulevard Woods: Key Points

Boulevard Woods is a community partnership to create a distinctive neighborhood park on a vacant county-owned lot.

More than half the funds needed for construction have been raised. It will cost about $100,000 to build the park. Thanks to a $75,000 grant from Riverview Foundation, and ongoing local efforts, we’ve raised more than 85% of what we need. To get the job done, we need about $14,000.

Located in a great spot. The 1.8 acre lot sits at a prominent junction at the top of Boulevard where that street meets Barber St.—a street studded with connections to the local music scene. The site is inside the boundaries of the Historic Boulevard Neighborhood, and within walking distance for many area residents.

Lot is owned by Athens-Clarke County, and is designated for use as a park. The lot was donated to the City of Athens by W.H. Benson in 1967. In July 2012, ACC’s Mayor & Commission voted to allow this lot to be used as a park.

Neighborhood residents want a park. Apart from a school playground that’s off-limits during school hours and doesn’t allow dogs, there are no parks in the neighborhood. When area residents were surveyed in 2009, 93% of 193 respondents supported creating a park. ACC’s recent study of the Prince Avenue corridor mentions this site as a location for sorely needed public green space.

There’s a neighborhood/county partnership moving the project forward. The Boulevard Neighborhood Association, Inc. is leading the volunteer effort to create the park, and is working closely with ACC’s Leisure Services Department to design a park that meets public standards.

The park will be a public park. While the idea to create the park came from neighborhood volunteers, Boulevard Woods will be an ACC Leisure Services park when complete—a park open to everyone.

Plan is for a simple, graceful and easy-to-maintain park. Boulevard Woods will be a place for people to come to relax and play with their kids and friends in a garden-like and tree-filled setting. Beautiful stone walls will provide both architectural structure and seating for the park. Taking advantage of the topography of the site, an overlook will offer a view into dense tree canopy. A hiking trail will allow visitors (and their dogs) to stroll through a wooded area.

Incorporating community creativity. During a second phase of development, we plan to incorporate more expressions of community creativity into the park, including a mosaic, a metalwork archway sign, ornamental gardens and a community of birdhouses.

The park will be built and maintained at little cost to county taxpayers. In addition to designing the park at its own expense, BNA will be raising the funds required to construct the park. And, under an agreement with ACC, BNA will—with volunteer labor—help with ongoing maintenance.

Contributions are handled by Athens Land Trust, Inc. and are tax deductible. Under an agreement between BNA and Athens Land Trust, Inc. contributions to the park project are directed to an ALT fund that’s earmarked for Boulevard Woods. Contributions are tax deductible as allowed by law. ALT is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization.

This project is serving as a pilot project for other neighborhood parks. The effort to create this park is generating valuable lessons that may help ease the way for other neighborhood parks. ACC is now developing criteria to evaluate future proposals, and there’s now support for establishing a fund to help cover maintenance costs for neighborhood parks.

Timeline. Our goal is to present our ACC-approved plan to the Mayor & Commission for final approval in Fall 2014. If we’ve raised sufficient funds by then and the Mayor & Commission vote to accept our plans and funds, we expect construction of Boulevard Woods to begin in Spring 2015.

Boulevard Woods Gets HPC Recommendation

ACC’s Historic Preservation Commission gave our plans for Boulevard Woods a unanimous thumbs-up at a Nov. 20 hearing.

Boulevard Woods is on county-owned land that is located within the boundaries of the Historic Boulevard Neighborhood. The commission’s role was to review our plans and make recommendations intended to make sure what we were proposing fit in with the history and architecture of the neighborhood.

Commissioners expressed support for the project and our plans, and recommended that we include permanent edging along a gravel driveway, landscaping along a fence and an entry way sign that matches the scale and architecture of the neighborhood.

We’ll be able—and quite happy—to accommodate these recommendations.

Josh Koons of Koons Environmental Design, Inc. prepared and presented our plans before the commission. Thanks, Josh—and everyone at Koons Environmental Design.

Now that we’ve had plans reviewed by ACC’s Planning Department and gone through HPC review, we’re ready to work with ACC’s Leisure Service Department to develop the final, construction-ready set of plans. And there’s a few more steps to be taken after that as well, but we keep getting closer to making Boulevard Woods a reality.

New Website is Part of Final Push for Boulevard Woods

Boulevard Woods logoTake a look at our new website!

We’ve come a long way in our efforts to create Boulevard Woods. After gathering neighborhood input, designing a concept plan, gaining initial ACC approval, winning a $75,000 grant, and starting the official review process, we decided it was time for a new website to help take us across the finish line.

We’ll be using this website to keep people informed of our progress, to help us raise money and recruit volunteers and, when the times comes again, to rally supporters to help push for final action from the Mayor and Commission.

But while all those functions are important, we’ll also be using this website to celebrate the community that has come together–the people and the organizations–to create Boulevard Woods.  And we’ll be sharing lots of pretty pictures of the site–as it is now, and as we work to build the park.

The website was built and our logo designed by Krysia Haag, a longtime Boulevard Woods volunteer and supporter. She deserves a big thank you from all of us.

There’s lots of work yet to be done. It’s going to get busy very soon. We’ll keep you posted. But in the meantime, explore our new website. Let us know what you think.


Boulevard Woods Gets $75,000 Grant

Bw concept

Boulevard Woods, our community-driven effort to create a distinctive neighborhood park on a long-vacant lot owned by the county, got word today that it would be given $75,000 from a foundation with a history of making contributions to Athens.

The lot, at 289 Barber Street., is situated at the junction of Boulevard, a beautiful broad residential avenue and Barber Street–a street rich in connections to the music scene in Athens.

The grant is from the Riverview Foundation, Inc. based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The foundation has given grants locally to support land trust acquisitions and educational and cultural activities.

The grant will help pay for construction of the park. Before funds are released, the park plans will need to be approved by Athens-Clarke County. Additional fundraising is likely necessary. So, there’s still a lot of work ahead for us. But this is a big step forward. We owe the Riverview Foundation a huge thank you.

Boulevard Neighborhood Association, Inc. has been leading the effort to create the park since 2009. In July 2012, the Mayor and Commission approved use of the site as a passive park and approved BNA’s concept plan. ACC’s Department of Leisure Services and other departments have been have providing advice and assistance since then.

In May, a UGA College of Environment and Design senior-level studio, under the supervision of Assistant Professor Doug Pardue, helped refine the concept plan for application to the foundation. BNA also consulted with Josh Koons of Koons Environmental Design, Inc., a local design firm, to generate cost estimates for the grant application.

BNA has an agreement with Athens Land Trust, Inc. to administer fundraising–an arrangement that allows donors to claim a tax deduction.

Many people and organizations have helped us get to this point. Among them are Boulevard neighborhood residents Marci White and Allen Stovall. White ignited efforts to create the park; Stovall lead the neighborhood design team that developed the concept plan. Kevan Williams produced many illustrations and drawings for the concept plan. Krysia Haag, a local artist, has been coordinating efforts to incorporate community art projects into the park.

Mayor Nancy Denson and the Athens-Clarke County Commission, including particularly Commissioners Kelly Girtz, Jared Bailey and George Maxwell, supported the project. ACC Manger Alan Reddish, ACC Attorney Bill Berryman and ACC Director of Leisure Services Pam Reidy all have continued to provide much needed guidance and technical assistance.

ACC employees Roger Cauthen and Mel Cochran have also been extremely helpful.

Stay tuned for more updates.

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[Note: The rendering above was created by UGA College of Environment and Design students Molli Hummel, Juan Guzmán-Palacios, and Jonas Hopkins. This is not the final plan, but it was submitted as part of our grant application to illustrate the kind of park we are aiming to create. Other students involved with the project included: Carolin Bowles, Tanner Copeland, Daniel Finnegan, Callan McCauley, Grace Miller, Cameron Nester, Ann Nguyen, Dana Olsen, Xandy Powers, Eduardo Tapia and Nicholas Voravong.]

Survey Work is Complete

bw survey work
The property lines have been staked, the slopes have been measured and the major trees on the upper level have been located–and all that data nicely drawn on a crisp plat at 20 feet = 1 inch scale.

The survey work was done by Athens-based Chandler Surveying & Engineering. (That’s Brett Chandler in the photo standing in the upper level of Boulevard Woods, looking east.) Boulevard Neighborhood Association, Inc. raised the funds for the survey and paid for the work through an arrangement with Athens Land Trust.

In addition to the hard-copy plats, all the survey data was compiled into a computer format for UGA College of Environment and Design students to use in a senior-level design course that’s aiming to produce the final design of the park based on the ACC-approved concept plan.

Stay tuned for more about the design class, and upcoming volunteer work opportunities at Boulevard Woods.