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.

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. 

 

Boulevard Woods Vote is Today!

Hi Everyone:

The Mayor and Commission is voting on Boulevard Woods today. (Starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 3 at City Hall.) 

With the July 4 holiday coming up lots of folks are out of town, but we still need to show strong support for our park at the City Hall. So, if you're in town and can do so, please come to the Mayor and Commission meeting. Plan to say a few words in support or just bring yourself and your good luck.  

If you haven't done so yet, please send the Mayor and your Commissioners an email urging them to support Boulevard Woods. 

For talking points about Boulevard Woods, scroll down to the previous post or go here.

Thanks!

Mayor and Commissioner Email Addresses

Mayor Nancy Denson nancy.denson@athensclarkecounty.com

District 1–Doug Lowry doug.lowry@athensclarkecounty.com

District 2–Harry Sims harry.sims@athensclarkecounty.com

District 3–George Maxwell george.maxwell@athensclarkecounty.com

District 4–Alice Kinman alice.kinman@athensclarkecounty.com

District 5–Jared Bailey jared.bailey@athensclarkecounty.com

District 6–Ed Robinson ed.robinson@athensclarkecounty.com

District 7–Kathy Hoard kathy.hoard@athensclarkecounty.com

District 8–Andy Herod andy.herod@athensclarkecounty.com

District 9–Kelly Girtz kelly.girtz@athensclarkecounty.com

District 10–Mike Hamby mike.hamby@athensclarkecounty.com

Talking Points

Support bw sign
The Mayor and Commission are scheduled to vote on a plan that would allow us to move forward with creating Boulevard Woods at its regular session meeting this coming Tuesday, July 3, beginning at 7 p.m. at City Hall.  

We'll definitely need folks to come out, speak up and show support at this meeting. 

Here, for your convenience, are talking points in favor of Boulevard Woods. Stay tuned for more alerts and reminders.

 Talking Points 

Our proposal in brief. "Boulevard Woods" is a proposal by the Boulevard Neighborhood Association, Inc. (BNA) to partner with ACC Leisure Services to establish and maintain public green space or park on long vacant, county-owned land off of Barber Street where Boulevard ends. 

Low-cost, passive public green space. We are proposing a low-cost, easy-to-maintain public green space that is a convenient place for neighbors to walk or bike to in order to relax, bring kids to play or take a stroll along a nature trail. 

Funding source is BNA. BNA intends to raise funds, and under the supervision of Leisure Services, coordinate the use of contracted work, volunteer labor and donated materials to build "Boulevard Woods" and to provide for its ongoing maintenance. 

No money = no park. If we fail to raise the needed funds and resources, the park will not be built. 

Design is based on neighborhood feedback. A concept design for the park was based on two surveys of residents and a public charrette. Using feedback from the surveys and the charrette, a volunteer design team–whose membership included UGA landscape architecture professors, a locally practicing architect and a professional landscape designer–developed the concept drawing. 

This project is driven by lots of neighborhood volunteers. There are eight volunteers on our design team. There are nine volunteers on BNA's Park Committee There have been eight organized volunteer work days on the site. More than 82 people have together volunteered at least 2,200 hours of time for this project.

Need for a neighborhood park. In its Prince Ave corridor study, ACC's Planning Department notes the lack of pocket parks or greenspace near the corridor. The study mentions our site as an example of a "greenspace connection" that would enhance the corridor. There are no parks within convenient walking distance in our neighborhood. The school playground at Chase St. School is only open during non-school hours and does not allow dogs. 

Making a stronger, safer neighborhood. Studies show that properly placed, properly designed neighborhood parks that are well-cared for and popular help build community ties that produce stronger, safer neighborhoods. Boulevard Woods will be a very well loved park. (See City Parks Forum Briefing Papers, How cities use parks to create safer neighborhoods, published by the American Planning Association and The Benefits of Parks: Why American Needs More City Parks and Open Space, by Paul M. Sherer, published by The Trust for Public Land, 2006.)

Backed by enduring organizations. "Boulevard Woods" is a project of the Boulevard Neighborhood Association, Inc., which has been actively advocating to protect and improve Boulevard since the 1980s. BNA has entered into an agreement with Athens Land Trust that establishes a fundraising partnership for "Boulevard Woods."

We've done a lot of outreach. We've surveyed neighborhood residents twice. In the first survey, out of 193 respondents, 91.2 percent said they would like to have a public park or public green space in the neighborhood. In the second, residents told us what they liked and didn't like about the proposed site and what they'd like to see there. In July 2010, 35 residents participated in a public neighborhood meeting about design preferences and issues at the ATHICA gallery space.  Residents provided feedback on design concepts to the project's design team. Every house in the neighborhood, including the streets surrounding the site, was invited via a flyer. We've met with neighbors many times. We've maintained a publicly accessible web site about the project since January 2010. 

We're ready to get to work now. BNA has voted to amend its bylaws to create a permanent "neighborhood park" steering committee. BNA and Athens Land Trust have already signed an agreement that will allow BNA to use ALT's non-profit status and professional staff to help administer a fundraising campaign. There's already a framework and precedent for doing what we're proposing: ACC signed an agreement with the Athens Chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association to construct and maintain trails on county-owned property in East Athens. We're asking for a similar kind of agreement. Let us get to work now. 

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.

Show Support for Boulevard Woods

Support bw sign

At its agenda-setting meeting tonight (Thursday, June 21), the Mayor and Commission will be deciding on whether to include the Boulevard Woods proposal on its regular session agenda for July.

We need to your voice (or at least your presence) at this meeting to show that’s there’s strong community support for Boulevard Woods.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall, TONIGHT, Thursday, June 21.  

You can show support by standing up and telling the Mayor and Commission why you believe they should support our efforts to create Boulevard Woods.

Or, if you’d prefer, you can simply show up and sit with a group of us Boulevard Woods supporters. Maybe you could wear one of those “Boulevard is for lubbers” t-shirts or bring a small hand-made sign saying something like “Please Support Boulevard Woods.”

Now, if you can’t come to the meeting, please take a minute to write a email to the Mayor and your commissioners asking them to please support Boulevard Woods. (Commissioner email addresses are listed below).

Tonight’s agenda-setting meeting and the the regular session meeting coming up in July are crucial for Boulevard Woods. If we make it through both of these votes, we can finally start moving from the conceptual and exploratory stage into actually doing what it takes to build a real neighborhood park.

Please join us in showing support for Boulevard Woods tonight at City Hall. Boulevard Woods needs your help.

Thank you!

Mayor and Commissioner Email Addresses

Mayor Nancy Denson nancy.denson@athensclarkecounty.com

District 1–Doug Lowry doug.lowry@athensclarkecounty.com

District 2–Harry Sims harry.sims@athensclarkecounty.com

District 3–George Maxwell george.maxwell@athensclarkecounty.com

District 4–Alice Kinman alice.kinman@athensclarkecounty.com

District 5–Jared Bailey jared.bailey@athensclarkecounty.com

District 6–Ed Robinson ed.robinson@athensclarkecounty.com

District 7–Kathy Hoard kathy.hoard@athensclarkecounty.com

District 8–Andy Herod andy.herod@athensclarkecounty.com

District 9–Kelly Girtz kelly.girtz@athensclarkecounty.com

District 10–Mike Hamby mike.hamby@athensclarkecounty.com

 

Action Alert: Agenda-Setting Vote Coming Up, June 21

Some very good news to report: ACC staff have recommended that the Mayor and Commission give us a green light to move forward with Boulevard Woods.

They're recommending that ACC designate the largest parcel of our Boulevard Woods site for use as a passive park and give staff permission to develop an agreement with us to build and provide ongoing maintenance for "Boulevard Woods."  (You can link to the full ACC commission agenda item recommendation on Boulevard Woods here.)

At it's Thursday, June 21 agenda-setting meeting, the Mayor and Commission will be voting on whether to include the Boulevard Woods proposal on its regular session agenda for July 3. 

We need to your voice (or at least your presence) at this meeting to show that's there's strong community support for Boulevard Woods. 

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall, this Thursday, June 21.  

You can show support by standing up and telling the Mayor and Commission why you believe they should support our efforts to create Boulevard Woods. 

Or, if you'd prefer, you can simply show up and sit with a group of us Boulevard Woods supporters. Maybe you could wear one of those "Boulevard is for lubbers" t-shirts or bring a small hand-made sign saying something like "Please Support Boulevard Woods."

Thursday's meeting and the the regular session meeting coming up in July are crucial for Boulevard Woods. If we make it through both of these votes, we can finally start moving from the conceptual and exploratory stage into actually doing what it takes to build a real neighborhood park. 

Please join us in showing support for Boulevard Woods this Thursday at City Hall. Boulevard Woods needs your help.

 

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