dogwoods

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.

— — —

[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.

We’ve Got the Green Light!

At its July 3 regular session meeting, ACC's Mayor and Commission voted to give us the go-ahead to create Boulevard Woods. 

 Specifically, they voted to:

 1. Designate the main parcel–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) to allow us to build and provide 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.

What this means is once we've got the MOU ironed out–a process that will take some time and involve approval by both ACC staff and BNA–we'll be able to start fundraising for the project. And if we raise the money we need (including donations of labor and materials), we can finally start building Boulevard Woods. 

The commission vote was 8-to-1 to give us the go-ahead.  

We owe big thanks to Mayor Denson and many Commissioners–including particularly Commissioners Girtz and Maxwell, and Commissioners Bailey, Hamby and Hoard. Commissioners Herod, Sims and Robinson deserve our thanks as well. They voted to give us the green light. Commissioner Kinman was absent, but had expressed support. And Commissioner Lowry, who voted against, did so for understandable reasons. He wasn't against the park, but wanted more commission-level oversight.

Please take a moment to thank Mayor Denson and your commissioners. 

We also owe thanks to many ACC staff–particularly those in Leisure Services, the Landscape Division–who helped answer questions and offered advice, and to Athens Land Trust, who have agreed to be our partners in fundraising.

Finally–and very importantly–we owe our thanks and respectfulness to our park's nearest neighbors, especially Mrs. Tennie Brookins and her mother Ida Mae Griffin. 

Getting the green light is a huge step forward, but the real work is just beginning. 

 

M&C Will Take Up Boulevard Woods July 3

At its agenda-setting meeting last night, the Mayor and Commission decided to put Boulevard Woods on its regular session agenda for July 3. 

There was clearly a lot of good will and support for our proposal from the Mayor and Commission, though there were a couple reasonable questions and concerns expressed as well. 

There is some behind-the-scenes work and plenty of outreach to commissioners that needs to be done between now and then to cement support for Boulevard Woods, but we're moving forward and the prospects for success look good. 

There are only 11 days before the vote on July 3. 

Stay tuned for updates and action alerts.

Park Site (ACC Proposal)

Bw acc map

In ACC’s proposal for Boulevard Woods, the site would for the time being encompass only parcel A. According to ACC staff, additional legal research is needed to clarify ACC’s ownership of parcels B and C. Once full ACC ownership has been established, the parcels could be re-included as part of the Boulevard Woods site. 

Recommendation: Move Forward with Boulevard Woods

As expected, Athens-Clarke County's manager and director of Leisure Services are recommending that the Mayor and Commission give us a green light to move forward with the project. 

Specifically, staff is officially requesting that the Mayor and Commission:

 1. Designate the largest of the three parcels that comprise the Boulevard Woods site for use as a "passive park area. (According to the staff review, ACC's final ownership of the other two parcels hasn't been officially established yet but that if and when they are, they could be included again in the Boulevard Woods site.) 

2. Approve our neighborhood-developed concept plan for Boulevard Woods (minus the two smaller parcels) 

3. Give staff the authority to develop a Memorandum of Understanding between ACC and Boulevard Neighborhood Association to build and provide on-going maintenance for Boulevard Woods. 

 4. Give the Mayor and staff the power to implement the MOU once approved by the county's manager and attorney. 

The staff request for Boulevard Woods is very close to the proposal we made. If approved, we'll finally be able to start fund-raising with confidence that Boulevard Woods will be built–if we raise the needed money (and material and labor donations). 

Here's what happens next: On Thursday, June 21, at its agenda-setting meeting, the Mayor and Commission will be voting on whether to include the Boulevard Woods proposal on the agenda for the July regular session vote. If they vote to include it, the vote to approve Boulevard Woods will happen at M & C's regular session on July 3.   

The fact that staff is recommending approval is a big step forward, but we definitely need to keep showing strong support from the neighborhoods for this.  

Please stay tuned for action alerts this week. 

After that, we'll work with staff to develop the Memorandum of Understanding and launch a fundraising campaign. 

If you're interested in reading the official agenda item report on Boulevard Woods, you can find it here: http://www.athensclarkecounty.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/10029