February 2012

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.

A Quick Sprucing-Up

Holmesokey

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.

Mulchedtrail1

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.

Mulchedtrail2

A little mulch really helps make a crude path become a trail.

We’ve Got ACC Liaisons

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.

First Work Day of 2011 is a Big Success

Our first volunteer work day of 2011 was a big success. In our best turnout yet, 19 people–including many new faces–showed up to haul trash and other debris up and out, trim vines and pull weeds among other tasks. We got a lot done, but, of course, there's much more to do.

Here are some photos of our work:

pic5 pic1

pic2

pic3

pic4 pic6 pic7 pic8 pic9

Volunteers for the first work day of 2011 included: Lillian Agel, Marci White, Allen Stovall, Charles Apostolik, Anna Claire Davis, Katherine Melcher, Kevan Williams, Matt Elliot, Micah Yost, Chris McDowell, Judson Abbott, Vera Eve Giampietro, Cameron Gube, Keristin Gober, Stephanie Wolfgang, Sam Kelleher, Rachel Watkins, Larry Slutsky and Laura Sommet.

We owe special thanks to: Stacee Farrell and the Keep Athens-Clarke Co. Beautiful Program for loaning us tools; Matt Elliot for picking-up and returning those tools; Bruce and Jane Travis for bagels, cream cheese, fruit and water; Lillian Agel for coffee and more; Charles Apostolik for cleaning-up tools afterwards; Rachel Watkins for taking photos of the work day; and to ACC's Landscape Division for–among many other things–agreeing to remove all the debris we hauled up and out of the site.

A Project Timeline

Our Progress So Far

2009

1. Survey shows people want a park.  In the summer, we surveyed neighborhood folks and they told us they want a park in the neighborhood.

2. A good, practical location is selected. The parcels on Barber Street are selected as a potential site for a park for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they’re unused and owned by the county.

3. Neighborhood association gets involved. In December, the Boulevard Neighborhood Association “adopts” parcel and sponsors volunteer efforts to explore the site’s suitability as a park.

2010

4. Volunteer work begins. In January, thirteen volunteers began limited clearing work, and a web site for the project is launched. Three more volunteer work days are organized in the months following.

6. Earth Day celebration. A small group of volunteers and neighborhood residents gather at the site for a brief nature tour of the are and to read poetry in celebration of Earth Day, April 22.

7. Tree inventory. Two UGA urban tree managment students present a copy of their course project–an illustrated 21-page report that identifies trees on the site and makes recommendations for their care.

8. Athens Land Trust gets involved. In July, Athens Land Trust agrees to help in an administrative capacity with future fundraising efforts.

9. Neighborhood charrette. About 35 neighborhood residents participate in a neighborhood charrette–a public meeting about design preferences and issues–at the ATHICA gallery space on July 26. At the charrette, residents provide feedback on park design concepts to the project’s design team.

10. Plan developed. In August and September, the design team meets to review feedback from charrette and begins work to develop a composite site plan, integrating features from four alternative designs.

11. Initial meeting with ACC. In October, after the design team has finalized a composite plan, organizers meet first with Athens Clarke Co. Super District 9 Commissioner Kelly Girtz–whose district includes the potential park site–to discuss how to gain approval from the commission to create a park. Girtz offers his support and sets-up an initial meeting among park project organiers with officials from ACC’s Leisure Services and Central Services departments to informally discuss park creation issues and concerns.

 2011

12. Volunteer work continues. In February, the biggest volunteer crew yet shows up to haul out trash and other debris, trim vines, and pull weeds. Other volunteer work days follow.

13. Working with ACC. In August, park organizers meet with Pam Reidy, director of ACC’s Leisure Services; Dan Magee, Park Services Division Administrator and Mel Cochran, Greenways manager to discuss how to move the park project forward, and set a target date (February 2012) for presenting a proposal to the Mayor and Commission.

14. A Rivers Alive project. Boulevard Woods is selected as a Rivers Alive project. On October 15, a crew of 12 Rivers Alive volunteers join with neighborhood volunteers to haul out a massive brush pile to help create a looped trail. Rivers Alive is an annual volunteer day organized by Hands On Northeast Georgia.

15. Sunday Afternoon Ramble. About thirty people show to enjoy a walk on the nature trail that loops through the Boulevard Woods site. Hot chocolate and cookies are served, too.

16. BNA gets more involved.  In October, the Boulevard Neighborhood Association creates a neighborhood park committee to help guide the project. It also votes to draft an agreement with Athens Land Trust to handle fundraising for the project and to give the new committee the go-ahead to draft any needed agreements with ACC on the park.

17. BNA/ALT sign fundraising agreement. On December 19, Boulevard Neighborhood Association signs a Memorandum of Understanding with Athens Land Trust, a local 501 (c) 3 organization. The MOU outlines how ALT will help BNA administer fundraising for the Boulevard Woods project. The arrangement gives BNA the ability to offer donors to the project the ability to claim tax deductibility for contributions. Fundraising won’t start until the project receives an official go ahead from Athens-Clarke Co.

Next Steps

18.  Secure support from ACC. With a neighborhood-generated plan in hand and initial contacts made with local officials, our next step is to gain permission from ACC to proceed with creating a park at this site. Exactly how this permission will be structured has yet to be determined, and that’s part of what we’re working on now.

19.  Raise funds. Once permission is granted to create a park and ACC has approved our park plan, we’ll begin–with administrative help from Athens Land Trust–to raise funds and accept donated labor and materials to build the park.

20.  Build the park. The installation of features and amenities may happen in phases–as funding and donations are available.

21. Celebrate grand opening!

Concept Plan

Boulevard Woods 3-4-12

 

Boulevard Woods Concept Plan by the Boulevard Woods Design Team. Image produced by Kevan Williams.

This (above) is the concept plan we’ve developed for Boulevard Woods.

It’s the product of lots of hard work by our Design Team, and it’s based on lots of feedback from neighborhood residents and from park project volunteers. We conducted a survey and a questionnaire to learn about preferences for park uses and amenities. And we held a charrette to gather specific feedback on alternative park designs.

Remember, this is our concept plan. Neither this plan nor the use of the site as a park have yet been approved by Athens-Clarke Co. We are seeking such approval, but it hasn’t been granted yet.

Right now, ACC is proposal a slightly smaller site size for Boulevard Woods. You can see this proposal here.

Note, too, that the park we actually end up building may differ from the concept plan described here. The county may ask for changes, for example. Or, as we learn more about the topography of the site, our design team may–most likely will–want to tweak things. It’s also possible that we might raise more or less money than we expected, which would change what we can afford to build.

Still, we’ve developed a good concept plan–one that reflects what the neighborhood wants and that we’ll use to guide our ongoing discussions with Athens-Clarke County about how to develop the potential park.

Now, let’s take a tour of the key features and amenities.

  • Neighborhood landmark. Located on Barber Street right where Boulevard ends (or begins), the site is well-situated to serve as a neighborhood landmark.  And park features such as the enhanced pedestrian crosswalks, a street-facing fence an entrance plaza integrated with an improved bus shelter and a canopy walk aligned with the direction of Boulevard will all serve to create a “landmark” feel to the place.
  • Enhanced crosswalks. Bold pedestrian crosswalks combined with signage will make pedestrian access to the park safe, and improve over-all pedestrian safety at this key intersection.
  • Entrance plaza and improved bus shelter. A small entrance plaza, with an improved bus shelter, will provide a natural access point via a gate to the park.
  • Local art. We plan to integrate local art–possibly including mosaics,  sculptural pieces, and benches made of found-objects or materials from the site–into the park’s features.
  • Street-facing fence. A fence stretching the length of the Barber Street face of the park will provide definition and safety for park users, including kids at play.
  • Play lawn. Located at the “top” of the park, this open lawn will make a good play area for kids. Plenty of seating will be provided in this area, including seating that overlooks the interior of the park.
  • Canopy look-out. This will be a kind of pier that extends from the “top” part of the site out over the terraces drop off from it. The look-out will take users closer into dense tree canopy in the site’s interior and will enable people to see deep into the site.
  • Overlooks. In addition to the canopy look-out, there will be one or two seating areas on the “top” part of the park that will allow people to look down into the lower terrace.
  • Neighborhood gathering area/stormwater feature. Tucked into natural contours, this amphitheater-like space could serve as welcoming place for small acoustic concerts or outdoor meetings or simply as an attractive place to sit. A a shallow channel for stormwater runoff might be incorporated in the amphitheater.
  • Bioswale. A stormwater runoff streams runs through the site. We’ll turn at least part of this stream into an attractive bioswale.
  • ADA paved path. To make sure everyone can gain access to most of the site, which has some rather steep declines, we’ll build a paved path at an handicapped-accessible grade.
  • Seating nook. There’ll be seating areas throughout the site, including a few seating nooks where small groups of people could gather.
  • Wishing well. We discovered a deep hand-dug well on the site. It’s now covered with a light- and rain-permeable grate, but we hope create some sort of feature that highlights the well.
  • Gathering space. Set in the interior of the site, this simple gathering space will likely consist of rustic benches benches facing each other with shade provided by trees.
  • Mulched trails. Mulched trails will meaning through the site, though we’ll be careful to keep the trails from encroaching too close to adjacent properties.
  • Maintenance gate. This will allow landscape maintenance equipment to access the site.
  • Privacy plantings. There will be a variety of plantings–and possibly fences or other  in strategic locations designed to enhance the privacy of the park’s neighbors.

So, what’s next for the park project?

Well, many other steps are to follow before any actual construction takes place. These include securing permission to use the site as a park, incorporating feedback from Athens Clarke County into a final buildable park plan, developing a plan to build the park in phases, creating some form of county/neighborhood park partnership and demonstrating success in fundraising.

Still, the concept plan is a big step forward. Everyone in the neighborhood owes thanks to our Design Team for developing an exciting yet practical plan that captures Boulevard’s spirit.

Concept Plan for Boulevard Woods

BLVDWOOD

Boulevard Woods Concept Plan by the Boulevard Woods Design Team. Image produced by Kevan Williams.

You may have read about it in the Boulevard Neighborhood Association’s Fall 2010 newsletter, but for the first time on this web site, here’s the concept plan we’ve developed for Boulevard Woods.

It’s the product of lots of hard work by our Design Team, and it’s based on lots of feedback from neighborhood residents and from park project volunteers. We conducted a survey and a questionnaire to learn about preferences for park uses and amenities. And we held a charrette to gather specific feedback on alternative park designs.

Remember, this is our concept plan. Neither this plan nor the use of the site as a park have yet been approved by Athens-Clarke Co. We are seeking such approval, but it hasn’t been granted yet.

Note, too, that the park we actually end up building may differ from the concept plan described here. The county may ask for changes, for example. Or, as we learn more about the topography of the site, our design team may–most likely will–want to tweak things. It’s also possible that we might raise more or less money than we expected, which would change what we can afford to build.

Still, we’ve developed a good concept plan–one that reflects what the neighborhood wants and that we’ll use to guide our ongoing discussions with Athens-Clarke County about how to develop the potential park.

Now, let’s take a tour of the key features and amenities.

  • Neighborhood landmark. Located on Barber Street right where Boulevard ends (or begins), the site is well-situated to serve as a neighborhood landmark.  And park features such as the enhanced pedestrian crosswalks, a street-facing fence an entrance plaza integrated with an improved bus shelter and a canopy walk aligned with the direction of Boulevard will all serve to create a “landmark” feel to the place.
  • Enhanced crosswalks. Bold pedestrian crosswalks combined with signage will make pedestrian access to the park safe, and improve over-all pedestrian safety at this key intersection.
  • Entrance plaza and improved bus shelter. A small entrance plaza, with an improved bus shelter, will provide a natural access point via a gate to the park.
  • Local art. We plan to integrate local art–possibly including mosaics,  sculptural pieces, and benches made of found-objects or materials from the site–into the park’s features.
  • Street-facing fence. A fence stretching the length of the Barber Street face of the park will provide definition and safety for park users, including kids at play.
  • Play lawn. Located at the “top” of the park, this open lawn will make a good play area for kids. Plenty of seating will be provided in this area, including seating that overlooks the interior of the park.
  • Canopy walk. This will be a kind of pier that extends from the “top” part of the site out over the terraces drop off from it. The walk will take users into dense tree canopy in the site’s interior and will enable people to see deep into the site.
  • Overlooks. In addition to the canopy walk, there will be one or two seating areas on the “top” part of the park that will allow people to look down into the lower terrace.
  • Amphitheater/stormwater feature. Tucked into natural contours, this amphitheater-like space could serve as welcoming place for small acoustic concerts or outdoor meetings or simply as an attractive place to sit. A a shallow channel for stormwater runoff might be incorporated in the amphitheater.
  • Bioswale. A stormwater runoff streams runs through the site. We’ll turn at least part of this stream into an attractive bioswale.
  • ADA paved path. To make sure everyone can gain access to most of the site, which has some rather steep declines, we’ll build a paved path at an handicapped-accessible grade.
  • Seating nook. There’ll be seating areas throughout the site, including a few seating nooks where small groups of people could gather.
  • Crawford Street Gate. To enhance security and provide boundary definition, there’ll be a gate facing Crawford Street.
  • Wishing well. We discovered a deep hand-dug well on the site. It’s now covered with a light- and rain-permeable grate, but we hope create some sort of feature that highlights the well.
  • Gathering space. Set in the interior of the site, this simple gathering space will likely consist of rustic benches benches facing each other with shade provided by trees.
  • Mulched trails. Mulched trails will meaning through the site, though we’ll be careful to keep the trails from encroaching too close to adjacent properties.
  • Maintenance gate. This will allow landscape maintenance equipment to access the site.
  • Privacy plantings. There will be a variety of plantings–and possibly fences or other  in strategic locations designed to enhance the privacy of the park’s neighbors.

So, what’s next for the park project?

Well, many other steps are to follow before any actual construction takes place. These include securing permission to use the site as a park, incorporating feedback from Athens Clarke County into a final buildable park plan, developing a plan to build the park in phases, creating some form of county/neighborhood park partnership and demonstrating success in fundraising.

Still, the concept plan is a big step forward. Everyone in the neighborhood owes thanks to our Design Team for developing an exciting yet practical plan that captures Boulevard’s spirit. There’ll be more about next steps in future posts.

Oh, and by the way, you may have noticed that we’re calling the park “Boulevard Woods” now. That’s the name that got the most votes from neighborhood residents at the charrette we held. It has a nice ring to it, and it seems to be catching on.

Design Team

Here are the members of our Design Team. Based on lots of neighborhood input and feedback, they developed a composite plan for a park at the site.

  • Allen Stovall, a landscape architect and professor emeritus of UGA’s College of Environment and Design, leads the team.
  • Greg Denzin is a professional landscape designer.
  • Krysia Haag is an Athens-based mosaicist, with experience in public art projects.
  • Katherine Melcher is an assistant professor at UGA’s College of Environment and Design.
  • Henry Parker is an architect, landscape architect and planner.
  • Kevan Williams has a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from UGA and is architecture and development columnist for Flagpole Magazine.

Dan Lorentz and Marci White, two lead organizers for the overall park project, also work closely with the design team.

Park Design Charrette Generates Lots of Feedback

kwcharrette

Kevan Williams, a member of the Barber St. Park Project Design Team, gives neighborhood residents a quick orientation to four alternative park concepts at the start of a neighborhood feedback meeting held at the ATHICA gallery space. 

About 35 people participated in our neighborhood charrette last Monday at the ATHICA gallery space in the Tracy St. warehouses.

A charrette (pronounced shuh-ret) is a meeting or conference devoted to a concerted effort to solve a design problem or plan something. And that’s exactly what neighborhood residents did: they helped our design team to figure out the best plan for a potential park at the East end of Boulevard at Barber St.

Neighborhood residents listened to design team members explain their concepts, and then we gathered lots of feedback on the four alternative concepts that were presented.

Take a look at the concepts and other context materials here. It’s not too late to comment.

In the next step, the design team will digest the feedback on the concepts and develop a single proposal. Once that’s done, we’ll take it to the Athens-Clarke County Commission and seek approval to build our park at this site. At this stage, we may have to modify our plans, but we’re flexible. Of course, there will be lots of work to do after that, too. But we’ll take this one step at a time.

Stay tuned for more updates.

 

onlookers1

One participant at the charrette writes a comment while others look on. 

***

onlookers2

Taking in the four park concepts.

Neighborhood Charrette* Scheduled

BLVDWOODS
Legend box from draft concept #1. Image by Kevan Williams.

The Barber St. Park Project is moving forward, and we need your input.

Our design team has developed four alternative design concepts for a possible park or public green space at the Barber St. site. We need you to take a look at these concepts and let us know what you think about them.

You can inspect and comment on the designs at a neighborhood charrette — or design input session — on Monday, July 26 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the ATHICA gallery space, 160 Tracy St. Unit 4. (Find ATHICA here.)

Input at this event will be crucial in developing the final proposal we'll present to the county.

Please come, exchange views with your neighbors and tell our design team what you think. There will be refreshments, too.

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* What's a charrette? Here's what Wikipedia says.