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.
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
Our Boulevard Woods proposal will likely be voted on at the Tuesday, July 3 regular session meeting of the Mayor and Commission, according to Pam Reidy, Director of Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services Department.
In April, Mayor Nancy Denson and Commissioner Jared Bailey asked Athens-Clarke County staff to review our Boulevard Woods proposal "expeditiously" and make recommendations to the Mayor and Commission. It looks like that review is being completed now. ACC Manager Alan Reddish must sign-off on the review before it's officially presented to the Mayor and Commission, but all indications are that this will happen.
While this is definitely progress, it's worth noting that we haven't yet seen a draft of the review or recommendations. There may be challenges that will need to be addressed before we can shift into the fundraising and construction phase of the project. And, of course, we'll have to work hard in a short amount of time to educate many of the commissioners about the project before the vote.
Stay tuned for appeals to speak in support of Boulevard Woods before the Mayor and Commission and for help with outreach to commissioners.
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.
Here’s an email sent earlier today to Mayor Denson and a handful of Commissioners requesting timely follow-up action from ACC staff on Boulevard Woods:
Dear Mayor Denson and Commissioners:
At tomorrow night’s Regular Session meeting, those of us involved with the “Boulevard Woods” effort would very much appreciate a request for staff to work on assessing the “Boulevard Woods” as expeditiously as possible. If its deemed appropriate to develop a county policy to evaluate and administer proposals for neighborhood “green spaces” or “pocket parks” like “Boulevard Woods,” then we’d also really appreciate a request for staff to develop such a policy soon.
As you know, we’ve done a lot of work on our proposal and on the “Boulevard Woods” site itself. We are definitely ready and able to move forward now. We are keenly interested in learning more details about the review process and its anticipated timeline.
We understand that the staff review can not be completed overnight, but we do hope that any reviews, assessments or policy development can start now, if it hasn’t already.
We believe all the questions that Leisure Services Director Pam Reidy and Deputy Manager Bobby Snipes mentioned as examples of the kinds of considerations that the Commission should weigh when evaluating whether to approve a public/private partnership to create a neighborhood park are readily answerable.
Please know that we–the park organizers–will make ourselves available to answer any questions that staff may have, and to conduct any research that may be helpful to staff for us to undertake.
Thanks again for your interest in this. It’s heartening to see our local government responding in such a positive and helpful way to what I think we have a right to think of as a thoughtfully conceived and responsible proposal by neighborhood residents.
Dan Lorentz, Chairperson
Boulevard Neighborhood Association
This email was sent to:
Kelly Girtz <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Jared Bailey <email@example.com>,
Mike Hamby <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
George Maxwell <email@example.com>,
Kathy Hoard <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Alice Kinman <email@example.com>
Athens Patch has published a short post about (and a few photos of) Boulevard Woods.
The Athens Banner-Herald ran an editorial in support of exploring public/private neighborhood parks like Boulevard Woods.
During a March 13 Mayor and Commission work session meeting, Mayor Nancy Denson asked staff to prepare a review of the Boulevard Woods proposal. This is an important step forward because it gives ACC staff a clear signal that the Mayor and Commission are interested in our proposal.
Thank you Mayor Denson!
We weren't surprised by Denson's helpful request. But the meeting was interesting for other reasons.
The Mayor's request on our behalf came during a presentation by Leisure Services Director Pam Reidy about future goals and strategies for her department.
Reidy announced that Leisure Services future resources would go first to maintaining and repairing ACC's existing network of parks. This makes sense in a time of tight finances. But she also announced that as a general strategy going forward Leisure Services would continue to prefer larger, multi-use parks located on the outskirts of town and continue to de-emphasize smaller neighborhood parks.
There is a logic behind taking this approach: fewer larger parks are easier and therefore cheaper to maintain than lots of little parks.
But Reidy, who has been very helpful with Boulevard Woods to date, acknowledged that there was lively interest in neighborhood parks, and pointed to Boulevard Woods as an example. Because of this interest and because Leisure Service's strategy will be focused on maintenance and larger parks, she and Deputy Manager Bobby Snipes recommended that a review process be established to evaluate proposals for neighborhood parks.
From a county-wide policymaking perspective, this makes sense, too. No one wants to have parks in places that conflict with better uses for the land; nor in neighborhoods that don't want them; nor ones that will be costly to maintain.
We're confident that Boulevard Woods will pass any reasonable review process: we're located on a parcel that would be hard to use any other way; it's a convenient location serving at least three neighborhoods; it's popular; it's low-cost; it's well-designed and it won't cost ACC very much at all. In short, we've done a pretty thorough review process ourselves already. We're ready and eager to move forward now.
There is a lot of support for Boulevard Woods on the commission. Mayor Denson seems very intrigued by the project. Commissioners Kelly Girtz, Mike Hamby, Jared Bailey and Kathy Hoard are all strong supporters. Others Commissioners also seemed impressed with our work so far.
With their help and yours, we'll be pushing for timely action on Boulevard Woods.
If you support Boulevard Woods, it's time to contact the Mayor and your Commissioners to let them know.
At their next work session meeting–Tuesday, March 13–the Mayor and Commission will be discussing the Leisure Service Department and its plans and priorities for the future. The discussion is likely to touch on public support for pocket parks and projects like Boulevard Woods.
Mayor Denson let us know about this, and encouraged us to come to the meeting to hear the discussion firsthand. The meeting takes place at the Dougherty St. Government Building, 120 W. Dougherty St., and starts at 5:30 p.m. There are no opportunities for public comment at work session meetings.
But we can make sure that everyone at that meeting knows about Boulevard Woods.
Please take a few moments to write a brief email message to the Mayor and your commissioners in support of Boulevard Woods. And please feel free to contact other commissioners (not just the ones representing your district) you may know as well.
Here's the email message I'll be sending. Feel free to adapt it as you see fit.
* * *
Dear Mayor and Commissioners:
Please support Boulevard Neighborhood Association's plan to create "Boulevard Woods."
You will likely be hearing more about this plan at the upcoming March 13 work session where you are scheduled to discuss the Leisure Service Department's plans and priorities.
Boulevard Woods is a neighborhood-driven plan to create a neighborhood-funded public green space on vacant parcels currently owned by ACC.
Boulevard Woods won't cost ACC very much at all. Neighborhood residents are asking for about $2000 for a safe pedestrian crosswalk, but are planning to fund all other costs of building the park, and they plan to provide for the ongoing maintenance, too.
Boulevard Woods will be a low-cost, easy-to-maintain public green space open from dawn to dusk. No basketball or tennis courts. No water fountains. No lighting. Just a few seating areas, an improved bus stop, a bike rack, a fence for safety, a trash can or two, a place for neighborhood gatherings, a couple of spots to look into wooded areas, a short ADA-approved paved path on top and a nature trail below.
If the neighborhood association doesn't raise the funds needed for these features, then Boulevard Woods isn't built–and the lots remain as they are now.
Under the plan being put forward by Boulevard Neighborhood Association, the neighborhood association will partner with ACC's Leisure Services Department to develop and supervise a plan for Boulevard Woods. This will be an arrangement much like the existing partnership between ACC and SOBRA (the Athens Chapter of Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association) for multi-use trails on ACC-owned land in East Athens.
Athens Land Trust is willing to help Boulevard Neighborhood Association do the necessary fundraising.
With just a little help from ACC and some luck fundraising, the residents of Boulevard and surrounding neighborhoods will get a much desired neighborhood green space to enjoy. In return, ACC will have leveraged private resources to create a lasting public asset.
Please join fellow commissioners in supporting Boulevard Woods.
Learn more about Boulevard Woods at http://boulevardwoods.net.
* * *
Email addresses for the Mayor and Commissioners:
Mayor Nancy Denson firstname.lastname@example.org
District 1–Doug Lowry email@example.com
District 2–Harry Sims firstname.lastname@example.org
District 3–George Maxwell email@example.com
District 4–Alice Kinman firstname.lastname@example.org
District 5–Jared Bailey email@example.com
District 9–Kelly Girtz firstname.lastname@example.org
District 10–Mike Hamby email@example.com
Here's a letter we've just sent to Mayor Nancy Denson asking her to give permission to ACC staff to help us work together to move the Boulevard Woods project forward.
Mayor Denson has already replied: she says she's looking into the logisitics of how she and ACC may be able to help.
This is good news. But it can't hurt to have the Mayor hear from a bunch of us that we need her help now.
Email the Mayor–at firstname.lastname@example.org–and encourage her to let ACC staff continue to work with us on Boulevard Woods.
Mayor Nancy Denson
Athens-Clarke County Unified Government
301 College Ave.
Athens, GA 30601
Re: Proposal for “Boulevard Woods”
Dear Mayor Denson:
I’m writing on behalf of the Boulevard Neighborhood Association, Inc. to ask for your help in creating "Boulevard Woods".
"Boulevard Woods" is a proposal by the Boulevard Neighborhood Association, Inc. (BNA) to partner with Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services to establish and maintain a 2.3 acre public green space on three vacant county-owned lots located off of Barber Street where Boulevard ends.
We are proposing a low-cost, easy-to-maintain public green space that is a convenient place for neighbors to relax, bring kids to play safely or take a stroll along a nature trail.
BNA intends to raise the funds and, under the supervision of ACC's Leisure Services Department, coordinate the use of contracted work, volunteer labor and donated materials to build "Boulevard Woods" as well as to provide for its ongoing maintenance.
Please note that we're proposing to make the construction of "Boulevard Woods" contingent on a successful fundraising campaign. If we fail to raise sufficient funds by a certain date, we will not begin construction, and the lots will simply remain vacant as they are now.
In many ways, the framework of our proposal is similar to the recently executed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Athens Chapter of Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SOBRA) and ACC's Leisure Services Department that allowed SOBRA–under supervision by Leisure Services–to construct and maintain multi-use trails on county-owned property in East Athens. Like SOBRA, we're seeking an agreement with ACC Leisure Services to establish a partnership to create and maintain "Boulevard Woods."
We've already invested a lot time and work into this project for our neighborhood. To move forward at this point, we need your help.
Specifically, we'd like to ask you to direct ACC Leisure Services staff and the staff of any other relevant departments (e.g. Transportation and Public Works, Planning, Attorney’s Office and Athens Transit) to continue assisting Boulevard Neighborhood Association in developing (1) an appropriate plan for "Boulevard Woods" and (2) a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a "Boulevard Woods" partnership between BNA and ACC Leisure Services.
To date ACC staff from multiple departments have been very responsive in answering our questions and helping us address planning challenges. We've been advised that they need a green light from you to continue helping us. (While we've already done much of the work, there are few details involving, for example, a crosswalk and a bus stop will require closer cooperation with ACC departments to complete.)
When the time comes, we would also like to ask for your help in making sure "Boulevard Woods" is put on the agenda for any required consideration or action by the Mayor and Commission.
For more details about "Boulevard Woods," including a concept drawing, please refer to the attachments to this letter. You may also want to visit our web site for the project at boulevardwoods.net.
We're ready and eager to take the next steps with this project. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Thank you so much for your consideration. Please let us know if you have any questions or other concerns.
Dan Lorentz, Chairperson
Boulevard Neighborhood Association
325 Lyndon Ave.
Athens, GA 30601
cc: Pam Reidy, Director, Leisure Services Department
Kelly Girtz, Commissioner
George Maxwell, Commissioner
Mike Hamby, Commissioner
Jared Bailey, Commissioner