Category Archives: Across the Board

Across the Board – What’s in the Works

By Harriett Lane, Board Chair

FPC Board Chair Harriett Lane

It’s winter and fewer people are using the park. But while the grass lies dormant, Freedom Park Conservancy (FPC) has been busy planning for an exciting 2019 featuring public art projects, new plantings, public events, and more. FPC is eager to implement new projects in partnership with partners like the City of Atlanta, Atlanta Audubon Society, Trees Atlanta, and Park Pride. We can’t wait to share details!

As FPC has been gearing up, many of our board members have been asked about a proposal to build a pedestrian bridge in Freedom Park over Moreland Avenue. A pedestrian bridge over Moreland Avenue was one of several proposed pedestrian bridges in the original concept plan for the park, all of which were not built. A new grassroots effort has brought the idea forward once more. 

EDAW Sketch of Freedom Park at Moreland Avenue
A rendering of Freedom Park at Moreland Avenue from the original 1994 master plan

FPC’s Board of Directors, made up of representatives from our surrounding neighborhoods and other stakeholders, dedicated a meeting to discussing the idea. We talked about the state of the park today and how the bridge concept intersects with our mission to promote the improvement of the park for a diverse public. It’s important to us that the Conservancy encourages the exploration of all ideas that would improve the connectivity, safety, and beauty of the park. We’re very glad to see people talking about Freedom Park and how it’s used!

We concluded that we would like to see the concept studied with full public participation and the complete involvement of all stakeholders, particularly the neighborhoods bordering the park. We intend to be part of that conversation and anticipate the bridge will be explored as part of our upcoming master planning process.

While the bridge idea has generated a lot of discussion, it’s far from the only improvement our park needs. When Freedom Park was first laid out, a beautiful concept plan was created. Many ideas in this original plan were never implemented, and as a result most of our 200+ acres are missing what many may consider to be basic park amenities: benches, landscaping, lighting, picnic tables, drinking fountains, and more.

A rendering of the corner of Freedom Parkway and Ponce de Leon Avenue from the original 1994 master plan

In an effort to enhance the park in ways that would benefit the diverse community who loves it,  FPC is fundraising now for a new master plan for the park to address long-delayed improvements, big and small. We recently received a $50,000 gift from an anonymous donor to help us kickstart this fundraising. That’s a lot of money, but we need at least $100,000 more to create a comprehensive plan that spans the parkland running through all seven neighborhoods. Please consider making a donation today to help us improve our park.

If you’re curious about the original plan for the park and what’s missing, you can view high-resolution scans below. Please keep bringing us your ideas and we’ll keep working hard to make Freedom Park the best park it can be.

EDAW Freedom Park Master Plan Page 1

EDAW Freedom Park Master Plan Page 2

Across the Board – How to Ride a Bike in Freedom Park

By Steve Cushing, Immediate Past Chair

Like many of us who live and work in East Atlanta, I spend my work days looking at a computer screen. It’s either a desktop flat panel HD monitor, a smartphone, or tablet. Typing and reading emails, creating spreadsheets, analyzing data for cost benefit analysis or project implementation…I know, yawn—stretch—ugh is it only 3:30?

One of my favorite ways to unwind at the end of a day is to go out for a bike ride in Freedom Park. Now—I love road biking, and modern, high-end bike technology. A carbon fiber frame road bike with electronic shifters, an 11 gear rear cluster and 23cm wheels is the cat’s meow—but that’s not for Freedom Park. No, in fact I roll my eyes when I see road bikes on Freedom Park, at least as much as they will roll inside a rectangle.

No, for Freedom Park you just need an old, slow, heavy bike. One cobbled together from broken bikes eagerly given to you by friends, or a hand me down clunker is just fine. Thanks to the foresight of the early CAUTION members and the first plans drawn up by EDAW with the input of the neighborhoods, Freedom Park trails are not designed to get you from Point A to Point B. The paths in Freedom Park are designed to slow you down so that you will enjoy the space in between those points. Miles Davis once famously said of Jazz that the most important part of his music was the space in between the notes. Freedom Park is the space in between seven neighborhoods. To ride in Freedom Park, you need to take your time. Heck, get off the bike and walk.

Sometime in this past September, toward the middle of the month, it was a particularly pretty day outside. Clouds like shipwrecks were scuttling across a snappy blue sky. Far off in the Atlantic a low pressure center was pulling in cool, clear air from the north toward its slow vortex. Here in Atlanta, we sat on the perimeter watching it all go by. I got on my city bike, a 20 year old mountain bike that I’d striped down of shocks and other non-essential hardware to become a spunky curb jumping red ATV. It weighs a ton, but has lots of granny gears and is bullet proof, perfect for riding in the city.

It was late in the day and the sun cast long rolling shadows across the grand meadow. A lone sunbather was stretched out in the acres of late summer grass. Beyond the single figure, trees bordering Druid Place drew a dark line of natural patterns that separated the earth from sky. Some of the trees were older, well established oak trees that once stood in the yards of homes; now the trees and lone steps leading from the sidewalk are all that remain.

I stopped at the Domenge sculpture, Tree of Life, located just east of Oakdale Road at North Ave, which had been recently refurbished. It’s vibrant red color and cursive, calligraphic shape were catching the afternoon’s last light. I was feeling better already, my eyes slowly returning to their natural shape. My next stop was near Euclid Avenue,at  the Diane Solomon Kempler multi-part bronze, water and stone sculpture entitled New Endings. Now the afternoon light was cutting in steeply as it set. The water feature was on and the fairytale Jack and the Bean Stalk feel of the bronze was even more dramatic – it looked like a water fountain from some larger than life creature that was going to come harvest the bronze tubers.

New Endings by Diane Kempler

Nearby a large lush stand of flowering Canna Lilies added to the imagery of harvest, their leaves well munched on by voracious caterpillars. I spent time at each sculpture, taking pictures with my smartphone and wishing I’d brought a real camera, before riding down to the eastern terminus of Freedom Park at the slowly crumbling Jackson Heights Baptist church. The path below Candler Park golf course is one of my favorite spots. The stone work on the bridge is nice for portrait photography and the stream, rejuvenated thanks to efforts by neighborhood organizations, is now home again to beavers that migrated upstream from the Chattahoochee.

On this day, I don’t bother to ride the full eight miles of trails in Freedom Park. I take my time riding back toward home, enjoying the play of light in the trees, stopping to snap pictures, dawdling in a way that only the green and light of outdoors can help you do. No need to repeat a mantra, each step or pedal stroke is another breath, troubling thoughts come and are released. This is the way to ride a bike.

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Steve Cushing is a photographer, sculptor, and former Board Chair of Freedom Park Conservancy. He, and his wife “Miss Laura” have lived on Seminole Ave and enjoyed Freedom Park for 27 years.

 

The artwork in Freedom Park is owned and maintained by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.