It’s a beautiful day for a post-Thanksgiving-Day-feast-walk along the nature trail loop at Boulevard Woods.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
After a very productive meeting last week with our Athens Clarke County Leisure Services liaisons, we decided that our goal will be to officially ask ACC to approve our Boulevard Woods park plan no later than February 2012–which is just a little more than six months from now.
On Aug. 10, we–Allen Stovall, Marci White and I (Dan Lorentz)–had a wide-ranging and practical discussion about how to move the Boulevard Woods project forward with Pam Reidy, director of ACC’s Leisure Services; Dan Magee, Park Services Division Administrator and Mel Cochran, Greenways manager. We met them at the site first for a tour, and then continued our discussion at Allen’s house.
Here’s a summary of key points from the discussion:
- Their role: As our liaisons, Leisure Services will help us put together a plan for a park at the site that they would then present before the Mayor and Commission for their approval, modification or rejection. (One possibility is that M&C could approve a plan for the park contingent on us raising a certain amount of funds and donated labor by a certain date.)
- Timeframe: We and they agreed that we should aim to have the plan ready to propose to the commission for a work session briefing and then a vote in February 2012.
- Who is paying for what: While they are clearly expecting us to pay for the overwhelming majority of park costs–including construction, installation and maintenance–they also recognized that the Mayor and Commission could, if they chose to do so, agree to fund more of it than they are currently envisioning. Our plan, after careful consideration of what financial burdens can be realistically borne by us and ACC, will have to detail who’s paying for what and how and when.
- Limited resources: They emphasized that the budget for Leisure Services is already stretched very thin and that, currently, there’s no money budgeted for small neighborhood parks.
- Estimating costs: We agreed that we’ll do most of the leg-work in getting cost estimates building and maintaining the park. They agreed to help us develop estimates if we encounter difficulties and to make sure those numbers are credible estimates.
- Costs to factor-in: In addition to estimating the costs of park amenities like the front fence, or the canopy walk or benches and routine maintenance, they said our plan should also include estimates for ongoing tree maintenance, invasive plant control, dog waste collection (providing waste bags and receptacles) and pedestrian safety crossing improvements.
- Pedestrian crossing safety: They warned us not to assume that ACC will have readily available funds to pay for making desired pedestrian safety enhancements at the intersection of Boulevard and Barber. But because such improvements are key to making the park safe, identifying a source of funds for this will be critical. (ACC may in fact be able to fund this, we and they just don’t know at this point.)
- Phasing: They strongly recommended that we present a plan for a park that can be built in manageable phases that allow use to continue while finances rebuild for subsequent phases.
- Importance of formal agreements: They said that formal agreements (memorandums of understanding) detailing responsibilities for fundraising and maintenance between ACC and a stable, officially organized neighborhood group will likely prove to be critical to assuring ACC that the county won’t get stuck with costs that the neighborhood has promised to bear.
- Fundraising: They liked the fact that Athens Land Trust has indicated that they will serve as the administrator for our fundraising: it shows we’re being serious, and likely to be well-organized about raising funds. They urged us to be creative and energetic about fund raising efforts.
- Neighborhood park program: They mentioned the possibility that ACC might be interested in creating neighborhood park program sometime in the future. If so, and if the program is funded, then there’d be a chance that our project might qualify for some funding. (There’s no such proposal on the table yet to our knowledge, however.)
This summary makes it clear that we’ve got lots of work yet to do. But now we’ve got a deadline to motivate us and to finally make Boulevard Woods a reality.
Above, Carole Holmes and Jim Okey steer wheelbarrows full of mulch down to a trail segment near a well that was discovered on the site last year.
With just a small squad of volunteers, we nevertheless managed to spruce-up the Boulevard Woods site on a very humid Saturday, Aug. 6 morning. We picked-up trash, used weed-whackers to keep trails open and spread a good deal of mulch.
The purpose of Saturday’s work was to prepare the site in advance of a meeting to discuss the future of our proposed park later that week with Athens-Clarke County Leisure Service officials. (More about that meeting soon.)
Volunteers included: Ross Pringle, Rachel Watkins, Allen Stovall, Larry Slutzky, James Okey, Carole Holmes, Dan Lorentz and Lori Ringhand.
We owe special thanks to: Stacy Smith and the Keep Athens-Clarke Co. Beautiful Program for loaning us tools; to Bruce and Jane Travis for bagels and the Boulevard Neighborhood Association for cream cheese.
What a difference a little mulch makes:
A freshly mulched trail segment in the upper part of the site.
A little mulch really helps make a crude path become a trail.
About a week ago we got word that ACC manager Alan Reddish asked Pam Reidy, director of Leisure Services, to serve as a liaison with the Boulevard Woods project team. In turn, she's assigned two Leisure Service staff people–park services division administrator Dan Magee and Greenways supervisor Mel Cochran–to help us develop and bring forward a project concept for eventual consideration by the Mayor and Commission.
A few of us will be meeting with Reidy, Magee and Cochran at the site next week to start figuring out what we need to do next.
This is a big step forward for the project. We now have people on the "inside" who've been given official permission to help us with the park project. This doesn't mean that ACC has approved a park at the site yet, but it does mean that they know we're serious about moving forward.
We owe thanks to District 5 Commissioner Jared Bailey, and Super District Commissioners Kelly Girtz and Mike Hamby for their efforts in making this happen. We also owe thanks to Roger Cauthen at ACC's landscape management division for his continuing helpfulness and accessibility.