Dear Mayor: We Need Your Help

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 nancy.denson@athensclarkecounty.com–and encourage her to let ACC staff continue to work with us on Boulevard Woods.

bnalogoMarch 5, 2012

Mayor Nancy Denson
Athens-Clarke County Unified Government
301 College Ave.
Suite 300
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.

Sincerely,

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

Attachments

Download Bw key points

Download Bw concept drawing 3-4-12

BNA/ALT Fundraising Agreement is Signed

Altbnamou

Athens Land Trust, a locally trusted 501(c) 3 non-profit with professional staff, will help Boulevard Neighborhood Association administer fundraising for the Boulevard Woods project.

The agreement, officially called a memorandum of understanding, between the two organizations has been signed and is ready to go into effect.

BNA, which is spearheading the Boulevard Woods effort, sought the agreement with ALT because BNA does not have official non-profit status and wanted to be able to offer potential donors to the project the ability to claim tax deductibility for contributions.

The agreement means that we could–if we wanted to–start fundraising for the project right now.

But we've decided to start the fundraising drive only after we've gotten the official green light from the Mayor and Commission to create Boulevard Woods.

We're hoping the Mayor and Commission will give us permission to create Boulevard Woods as long as we raise a certain amount of funds and donated materials by certain date. Doing it this way reduces the risk for Athens-Clarke County and for us. 

For ACC, making the permission contingent on sufficient fundraising, protects them from us starting the project but failing to raise enough to complete it. And, for our part, we won't have to be raising money for a project that may or may not be approved in the end: if we reach our goals, then we'll be able to build Boulevard Woods. This will give our fundraising campaign a sense of urgency, and our donors more confidence.

When will the Mayor and Commission give us a thumbs up or down? We don't know exactly yet, but should have a solid timeline later this month. Stay tuned.

Thanks to Nancy Stangle, Matt Bowers and Heather Denham and everyone at Athens Land Trust for their willingness to help us!

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

Bnabanner
"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.

Sunday Afternoon Ramble at Boulevard Woods

picnictablegrp

About thirty people (if you include children) and two dogs enjoyed a walk through the nature trail at Boulevard Woods late Sunday afternoon. They (the people, at least) also enjoyed cups of hot-chocolate, homemade cookies and the company of neighbors and friends at an event organized by Boulevard Woods volunteers.

If you haven’t been to the Boulevard Woods site lately and walked the loop trail through the park, please come and see the progress we’re making.

Here are a few more snapshots from Sunday’s event:

 

melissawithdog

 

allenandjim

 

tablewithfred

Nature Trail is Looking Good

trailhead

                       The head of the nature trail that loops through the site.

After a small volunteer crew removed some brush and hauled and spread many wheelbarrows full of mulch Saturday, the nature trail that loops around the Boulevard Woods site is looking good. Mulching is not quite finished and the trail has a few places where we need to put in steps or do some grading work, but for the most part the trail is highly walkable and very pleasant.

Please come for a stroll. Be careful, but enjoy!

Volunteers included: Carole Holmes, Alex White, Jim Okey and Dan Lorentz.

We owe special thanks to: Ida Mae Griffin for the use of her driveway, and to Stacy Smith at the Keep Athens Clarke County Beautiful program for supplying tools on a last minute request.

More views of the trail:

lookingup

 

interior

nearwell

Thanks to Rivers Alive Volunteers

Rivers alive group
A crew of volunteers from the Rivers Alive project (most are in this photo) hauled out a massive amount of brush on Saturday, October 15 to help clear a looped trail at the site. They also picked-up several bags of trash and recycling.

Rivers Alive is a volunteer effort focused on keeping waterways (and areas like Boulevard Woods which are near waterways) clean. The annual event is organized by Hands On Northeast Georgia, with lots of help from Athens-Clarke Co. 

Volunteers included: Marci White, Laura Hill, Paige Olmstead, Paula Schwanenflugel, Lora Loke, Luke Worsham, Dan Lorentz, Allison Lewis, Maddi Lewis, Evan Lewis, Mark Davis, Hillary Barber, Alvin Angulo, Margo Rothstein, Eric Heil, Lori Ringhand and at least three others who neglected to sign-in.  Thanks everyone!

We also owe thanks to: Mel Cochran, Ellison Fielder, Stacy Smith, Stacee Farrell from Athens-Clarke Co. for their help in the Rivers Alive event; to Greg Denzin of G&G Landscape Design who loaned wheelbarrows and tools for our use; and–as always–to Ms Ida Mae Griffin, who generously allows us to use her driveway. 

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.