Category Archives: news

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.

—–

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.

A fresh look for Freedom Park Conservancy!

Freedom Park Conservancy has existed since 1997, when CAUTION took this name as a reflection of their new mission to support Freedom Park.

Now, after 20 years, Freedom Park Conservancy is rebranding to better reflect our goals for the future.

A special thanks to Perkins + Will for making this a reality.

Getting to know our new ED: A Q&A with Laura Hennighausen

The Board of the Freedom Park Conservancy is still VERY EXCITED for you to get to know our new Executive Director, Laura Hennighausen. Our Communications Chair, Sara Clark, sat down with Laura to learn a little more about her experience, and what she sees in the future for Freedom Park. Laura has officially started in her role as of 5/21, and you can reach her at Laura@freedompark.org.
 
As FPC’s first ever Executive Director, you have a lot of new challenges ahead of you. What are you most looking forward to tackling? 
 
I am very excited to work with the FPC Board and the surrounding communities to realize their vision for the future of the park through a master plan. There are so many opportunities for the park, whether that may be enhanced landscaping or the addition of more public sculpture. The possibilities are endless!
 
The FPC’s Board of Directors recently adopted a new strategic plan, which prioritizes fundraising and implementation for a new park master plan. What is a park master plan, and have you worked on any in the past? 
 
A master plan is really just that – it’s an overarching document that charts the future of a public park. FPC in its current state has never undergone a comprehensive master planning process, so this is a huge opportunity for locals to think about their relationship to the park. FPC will be here to work with the City Parks department to preserve what people currently most love about the space, and create an executable strategy to further enhance the park in sustainable and thoughtful ways.
 
You’ve previously worked with other greenspaces, such as the Historic Oakland Foundation (Oakland Cemetery) and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. What do you love about working with parks? What do you think makes Freedom Park unique? 
 
Although this may be a surprise to some since I am admittedly not an avid camper or hiker, I do love being outside. At the same time, I love being in a city! Greenspaces such as Oakland Cemetery and Freedom Park offer such a needed amenity – there is nothing more restorative than sitting quietly, listening to the birds and the trees. Atlanta is blessed to have a canopy of green interspersed with preserved greenspaces like Freedom Park. The conservancies across the city share an important role in preserving this space for all Atlantans. Freedom Park is particularly unique in its legacy as a grassroots effort to maintain the integrity of intown Atlanta, while providing a really exciting opportunity to present works of art in an incredibly accessible manner. Passive parks are so important in providing a site of respite in the midst of such a growing city.
 
Freedom Park was created through the efforts of local activists, who opposed a highway cutting through the historic east Atlanta neighborhoods. How do you intend to work with these neighborhood groups as FPC’s Executive Director? 
 
Freedom Park is the local park for several neighborhoods in Atlanta which provides FPC with a natural constituency. I hope through each of the neighborhood associations and other affinity groups to learn more about how each distinct area interacts with the park. The most important thing during the master planning process will be to ensure the community has ample opportunity to think about their relationship with the space and what they most value. That’s the only way to ensure the master plan accurately reflects what the larger community sees for Freedom Park’s future.
 
And finally, what is your favorite thing about Freedom Park? 
 
I really love the story of how Freedom Park came to be: community residents exercising their rights. So many people have poured their energy into protecting the surrounding neighborhoods. What a beautiful legacy to carry!

Now Hiring: You

The Freedom Park Conservancy is looking to hire our very first Executive Director. This is a very exciting time to be involved with FPC, and we can’t wait see what we can achieve with a new leader at the helm.

Interested in applying? See the listing here

News and Happenings around Freedom Park

FFMsm
The Freedom Farmers Market is back for 2015!

In case you haven’t heard, the Freedom Barkway off-leash dog park is making great strides and will have a ribbon cutting ceremony next Saturday Mar 21st at 1p. A nice way to kick-off spring in Freedom Park. You can see images and plans of the dog park on the Freedom  Barkway website. It sounds like the initial installment will be to get the park open, finer amenities will come later; sooner if funds can be raised, so donate today!

City of Atlanta named finalist for Public Art Challenge: The Mayor’s Office of CulturalAffairs (OCA) has announced that the City of Atlanta is a finalist to possibly receive up to $1 million as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge. The new program focuses on supporting temporary public art projects that engage communities, and encourage civic and social dialogue. Atlanta, along with 11 other cities has been chosen to submit a full proposal. Read more…

The Freedom Farmers Market is back, under the shade of the tress in the parking lots of the Carter Center for 2015. You might have already missed it, twice, since the market reopened for 2015 on Sat. March 7th. You can keep up with market news via their website or Facebook page.

 

 

“One Woman Rising” permanent installation dedication

On Wednesday February 11, 2015 Eve Ensler, founder of One Billion Rising, representatives from the City of Atlanta, members of The Chelko Foundation, and representatives of the Freedom Park Conservancy convened in Freedom Park for the dedication of the permanent installation of “One Woman Rising “.

Learn more about the artwork here.

One Woman Rising Dedication Ceremony
One Woman Rising Dedication Ceremony

FREEDOM PARK BIRD & BUTTERFLY GARDEN GETS NEW COORDINATORS

I’m happy to announce that as of February, 2015, the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden will have some new coordinators. My good friends and nature lovers, Pandra Williams, Jeff Killingsworth, Lauren Sandoval and Beech Hollow Farms  will be adopting the Garden via Park Pride.

All three have had a long term commitment to restoring native habitats and to community education. Pandra currently manages Beech Hollow Farms, a nursery for native plants, which works with communities and organizations to restore native greenspaces. Beech Hollow Farm is a 120 acre native plant farm just outside Lexington, Ga. The Farm is the culmination of a nearly decade long mission to save and propagate plants from the metro Atlanta area threatened by development and invasive species. Pandra has also been the driving force behind EcoAddendum, an organization whose focus has been on education and restoration of native species for pollinators, birds and, butterflies

Jeff is the Nursery Manager at Beech Hollow Farms and is in the process of getting his certificate in native plant studies at the State Botanical Garden He previously worked at EcoAddendum in a similar position. Jeff has been a long term gardener and has been studying ecology centered books for many years.

Lauren, in her day job, is the Youth Education Manager at Trees Atlanta. The Youth Education program uses the Freedom Park Garden as an environmental education tool with students at May Lin Elementary School just up the hill. Previously Lauren has also worked at EcoAddendum where she was closely involved with management and community education projects.

I’ll be stepping back as Garden Coordinator as soon as they take over. I’ve had that position for many years, since the first plant was put in the Garden in the spring of 2005. The Garden was enlarged three times over the years and now has over 40 species of native plants established there. Thanks to Al Hurt of Audubon we have an active bluebird box on site. There is also a bird bath for visitors to take a dip in (birds only please).

The DeKalb Master Garden Association and the Atlanta Audubon Society helped to get the garden started. The Master Gardener Association left a few years ago to go on to other projects. Over the years many neighborhood individuals and organizations helped to keep the garden going. They are too numerous to name here but I can only say how grateful I’ve been for their help!

I feel the community is very lucky to have Pandra. Jeff and Lauren taking things over. I know they will bring a great deal of knowledge, enthusiasm, dedication and energy to the project. They are committed environmentalist and have a special interest in pollinators. I can’t wait to see their vision for the Garden come into being.

Carol Vanderschaaf

Volunteer Opportunity: King Day 2014

Freedom Park Conservancy (King Day 2014)
The mission of Freedom Park Conservancy is to promote the improvement and preservation of Freedom Park for the benefit of a diverse public.

During Martin Luther King Jr. Day, volunteers are needed to help with landscaping projects and general park cleaning. Volunteers will also be painting over graffiti under bridges at Randolph St NE, Highland Ave along the Freedom Park Trail.

Please park at the Carter Center and Presidential Library on the easternmost end of the parking lot (furthest end from the main entrance toward Highland Ave – click here for a map). Signs will direct volunteers to this end of the parking lot.

FPC_KingDayParking

Please be prepared to walk throughout the park and to cross a street or two to get to the various portions of the park.

Let us know you are coming to volunteer – sign up at Hands on Atlanta

Questions? Email Jay the FPC Park Improvement Committee Chair at pic@freedompark.org

2014 FPC Officers

At the Freedom Park Conservancy Annual meeting held the Second Tuesday of November 2013, the new slate of Officers were elected for 2014. New Officers and Committee Chairs for 2014:

2014 Freedom Park Conservancy Executive Directors
President: David Hamilton
Vice President: Edward Holifield
Vice President: Ed Dreistadt
Secretary: William ‘Billy’ Davis
Treasurer: Carol Gregory

2014 Committee Chairs
Park Improvement: Jay Wozniak
PR/Communications: Stephanie Saxon
Nominating Committee: Edward Holifield

Congratulations to all! 2014 looks to be a big year for Freedom Park as the Board begins in earnest the effort to update the park master plan which is long overdue for a refresh. The board also continues its charge to protect the integrity of the park boundary and the lease between GDOT and the City, which is unique to Freedom Park, in the City of Atlanta. In 2013 the FPC Board successfully worked with the Parks Department and Atlanta Public Schools to establish a City resolution for the donation, by APS, of the forthcoming parking lot in Freedom Park adjacent to Mary Lin Elementary School. This resolution is a necessary recognition of the process by which the parking lot was established and most importantly it protects the integrity of the 99 year lease for Freedom Park. Not familiar with the unique history of this great park? Check out this mini documentary.