Boulevard Woods Gets $75,000 Grant

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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

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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)

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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

 

Mayor Requests Expeditious Proposal Review

At the very beginning of Tuesday's Regular Session of the Mayor and Commission, Mayor Nancy Denson requested that Athens-Clarke County Manager Alan Reddish to direct appropriate ACC staff to review our proposal for Boulevard Woods. And she asked that the review be done expeditiously. At the end of the meeting, Commissioner Jared Bailey noted that we've done a lot of work preparing our proposal and the site already and echoed the Mayor's request for quick action.

Thanks Mayor Denson and Commissioner Bailey!

We'll be contacting staff soon to get a sense of a timeline and to offer our help in answering questions and explaining our proposal.

BNA Amends Bylaws to Create Park Position

At its annual business meeting yesterday, Boulevard Neighborhood Association (BNA) voted by acclamation to amend its bylaws to create a "neighborhood park/public green space standing committee."

The new committee, with an elected standing committee chairperson, is charged with coordinating with county departments and other organizations to manage and maintain Boulevard Woods and to fulfill any park-related obligations BNA may accept under agreements with Athens-Clarke County and Athens Land Trust (ALT), which has agreed to help BNA administer fundraising.

Earlier BNA created a temporary committee to help lead the push to gain ACC approval. That committee will remain in place until the plan for Boulevard Woods is approved, and when that happens (knock on wood) the new standing committee will take over.

In related news, discussions with Athens Land Trust about a memorandum of understanding outlining how they would help BNA administer fundraising are nearly complete. Which means we'll be technically ready to start fundraising, though we'll likely wait until ACC gives the green light for the project in February (we hope!).

BNA Moves to “Adopt” Boulevard Woods

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"Get a neighborhood group or non-profit organization that's been around a while and has a solid reputation to stand behind your park."

That's the advice we've been getting from Athens-Clarke Co. commissioners and county staff. They say that ACC is more likely to give a green light to a volunteer-driven neighborhood park project like Boulevard Woods if there's an organization with longevity and credibility backing it up.

Recently, we've taken some big steps to follow that advice.

The steering committee for Boulevard Neighborhood Association, a formally organized neighborhood group with bylaws and officers that has been working to protect and improve the neighborhood since the early 1980s, voted last week to begin what one might call the "adoption process" of Boulevard Woods. First, the steering committee created a temporary BNA committee to help guide the Boulevard Woods project through the next few months as it heads to the Mayor and Commission for consideration. 

BNA also gave its chairperson–that's me, Dan Lorentz–the go-ahead to draft agreements with Athens Land Trust, a locally well-known and respected non-profit, to handle fundraising for the project and, when the time comes, with ACC to organize the construction and maintenance of the park. The draft agreements are subject to approval by BNA's steering committee.

Finally, BNA members will vote on Dec. 4 at their annual membership meeting on a amendment to BNA's bylaws that would create a permanent "neighborhood park/public green space standing committee" if and when ACC approves Boulevard Woods. If the amendment passes (and if ACC approves the park), the chair of the park committee would be a regular member of BNA's steering committee.

In one sense, BNA adopted the three parcels that comprise "Boulevard Woods" a couple of years ago under the "Adopt Athens" anti-litter program. But these recent votes mean that BNA is adopting the park project as its own.

For most users of the future park, all this behind-the-scenes bureaucratic stuff isn't that interesting. What is important about what BNA is doing is this: it's sending a signal to ACC that the Boulevard neighborhood is serious about wanting to create Boulevard Woods and about its longterm commitment to it.

Read more about the next steps for the project here.

Boulevards Woods is a Rivers Alive Project

Riversalive

This year Boulevard Woods is a participating site in the Rivers Alive volunteer effort.

Rivers Alive is an annual volunteer day organized by Hands On Northeast Georgia. This year's event takes place Saturday, Oct. 15.

As always, the focus of the event is keeping the waterways in Athens clean. Even though Boulevard Woods doesn't contain a waterway, the site is immediately adjacent to a streambed–and so they've invited us to participate.

Which is great because we've got a bunch of work that needs doing, including spreading mulch on trails. We'll also be hauling debris and picking up trash.

Here's the schedule for Saturday, Oct. 15:

8-9am – Rivers Alive Volunteer check-in at Dudley Park (coffee and juice will be provided)

9am-12noon – Clean-up project at Boulevard Woods

12noon-1pm – Back at Dudley Park for prizes, lunch, band performance, kids area and games.

For more information and to register as a volunteer for the Boulevard Woods Rivers Alive project, go here.