Park Atlanta Rescue Coalition organized by Park Pride
On the second Thursday of every month at 7:30am, Park Pride brings together community leaders and park advocates from throughout Atlanta for education, networking and strategy. The most recent meeting was 2/14 at Grant Park – here notes on items discussed at the meeting.
Upcoming events in include the kickoff to the 2013 Grand Park Historic Walking Tours on March 4. Complete schedule of Grand Park events will be at http://www.gpconservancy.org/event/2013/02/14/list/all/all. The Lantern Parade will be repeated in October and the Summer Shade Festival will happen once again in late August.
The Grant Park Rec Center now has a computer lab, dojo for martial arts training, a gym and a cardio room.
Grant Park is online with ActiveNet for class and activity signups. Third party vendor programs (judo lessons, Insanity Workout, etc) with payment capabilities will go online March 4. Grant Park will collect registration fees and disburse to vendors. Vendors get 75% of fees and Grant Park gets 25%.
Senior/Adult programs are more popular than youth programs at Grant Park due to the nature of the neighborhood. Grant Park has several nearby schools with after school programs plus Boys/Girls Clubs. An average of 40 people access the rec center each day, but only 5 children take advantage of the youth programs. Grant Park will not be on one the 10 Centers of Hope Rec Centers because of neighborhood demographics, resources and youth attendance patterns. The park will, however, offer art, music and other programs geared toward seniors.
City of Atlanta Aquatics Director
Eric Ericson was the meeting’s featured speaker. He’s been the Aquatics Director since May last year. He noted that over 200 people have applied for the city’s open Recreation Director position and the job will be filled shortly.
On November 7th, he received word that the King Natatorium would close immediately. An independent engineering firm submitted a report stating that the building was unstable and a 90mph wind or a seismic event would result in the building collapsing. It was closed immediately because of safety concerns. The building had been built in the 1920s as a transportation workshop and was converted to a pool in 1978. The city put in the pool, removed the roof and installed the glass box on top.
It was renovated in the late ’90s, but nothing structurally was done. 3 or 4 years ago, the parking lot had to be shut down because of structural problems. Half the pool was above ground and insufficiently supported.
The King Natatorium was the city’s most popular pool, so steps were quickly taken to find a replacement. As a stop-gap measure, the King Middle School pool has been renovated. It was in an unusable state and has been refurbished as a temporary replacement for the closed facility. The KMS pool has undergone a 3 1/2 month renovation under a unique partnership between APS and the City. The result is not ideal…only 6 lanes, no separate training pool, no separate locker facilities for a youth program, a public facility offering universal access in a school zone that is normally the opposite, so it is not a long-term solution.
The King Natatorium will be demolished and will most likely become green space offering a better sight line/access to the King Center. The site is also too small for a natatorium the size the community needs. Plans are for a new site to be identified within 1.5 miles of the old site, with construction of a new natatorium to happen within three years. There is a possibility of working with the King Center on a new location.
There was also discussion of a goal to teach every child in Atlanta to swim as a safety and life skill.
The City operates 10 outdoor pools and 4 natatoriums currently. Another three public pools not operated by the city are also within the City of Atlanta at Piedmont Park and Chastain Park.
City of Atlanta Department of Parks
Doug Voss noted that the Department of Parks is streamlining their point of contact information. Emails with requests to Parks should go to email@example.com or by phone to 404.546.6813. If we don’t see our mowing crew show up, for example, this would be the way to report it.
Parks has been working to get the Stump Crew up and running again. There are currently over 1,000 stumps identified to be ground up. The city’s stump grinders have been refurbished and they are looking for a contractor to do the work. Finding a reputable vendor has been a problem, though, with most operators being independent contractors with small grinders towed behind a pickup truck. Goal is to have the stump grinding operation up and running by July.
George Dusenberry talked about how the parks tend to serve neighborhoods without Boys and Girls Clubs. The Camps program costs $35 per week and 80% of participants get some financial aid, most through CAPS. Georgia now has an immigration law on the books that not only requires notarized photo ID for someone to apply for this type of aid, but also makes any state employee personally responsible for an illegal alien accessing state aid or public services. Centers will give staff training to become notary publics and each center will have a notary available at no charge to make sure applications are in compliance with the law.
Special Events Meeting
The City will have a Special Events meeting on February 28th at 6:00 in the Piedmont Room of the Civic Center. Permitting for special events and outdoor festivals will be covered. Recommendations on the 2013 event calendar will be discussed. Details have been emailed to participants who were in the last meeting. Ayanna (firstname.lastname@example.org) can send more information to anyone who needs it.
There was brief discussion about food trucks at Streets Alive. Parking a food truck on city streets isn’t permissible, but at special event festivals like Streets Alive, it’s becoming common.
DeKalb County Natural Resources
Dave Butler reported that DeKalb County has added over 3,500 acres of park land over the past couple of years. Budget constraints have been a challenge. Park Pride and 36 Friends groups have helped in maintaining the growing number of parks and properties. Park Pride has awarded grants to 5 DeKalb County parks. The Atlanta Audobon Society has instituted bird tours at several parks and the Atlanta Botanical Garden has also provided grant money.
City Parks Budget
The City has been dealing with declining revenues for three years, primarily because of declining property values caused by the recession. The rate of decline has improved with a $50 million drop three years ago, followed by $10 million and $5 million this past year. In spite of this, the Parks Department has not had a budget cut and has actually seen a modest budget increase. They have added park space and have been able to make the case that they are doing more for the same amount of money. The Mayor is also behind funding for the Center For Hope program. The Parks Department, however, is close to the limit of what it can do with the current budget.
Current efforts include making up for 20 years of neglect, including inoperative water fountains, lights that have not been maintained and/or vandalized, etc. The Parks Department is slowly getting on top of what needs to be done.
Park Pride Conference
Park Pride is hosting their 12th Annual Parks and Greenspace Conference at the Atlanta Botanical Garden on March 25, 2013. Early bird registration ends on Feb. 22nd. Friends of Parks scholarship rates end on 2/15. County Commissioners can also nominate up to 2 participants each.
The Atlanta Audubon Society will be having bird walks the 1st Saturday of every month in Piedmont Park. Participants will meet at 8AM at 12th & Piedmont. They are interested in establishing other walks with the intention of getting birders in park neighborhoods to take on walk duties once a base of participants is established. They also have binoculars they can loan to help get the program established.
Phoenix Flies Walks and Seed Swap
Grant Park will start second Saturday historical walks starting on March 1st. They will also host a Seed Swap for neighborhood gardeners.