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.