Freedom Park charts course for the next twenty five years…

For the neighborhoods and residence east of downtown Atlanta, and for my family in particular, Freedom Park is the treasured legacy of civic activism.  In 1992, my wife Laura and I purchased a craftsman bungalow a few blocks from a ragged strip of land aimlessly rolling down hill toward it’s dead end at Moreland Ave. With an eye on preparing the city for the 1996 Olympics, that overgrown grassy spit of land was soon transformed into the eastern terminus of Freedom Parkway and part of the two hundred acre Freedom Park. It traces the path of one section of the defeated Stone Mountain Freeway and Presidential Parkway; from the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, past the Carter Center, to a narrow spur of land near Jackson Hill Baptist church in Candler Park and Druid Hills.

As the years flowed by, we raised two ‘in-town’ girls and restored the bungalow. At every opportunity we strolled, jogged, walked, and explored Freedom Park.  The jogging stroller turned into a tricycle, a tag-along and then bicycles. The girls learned to ride bikes, fly kites and catch raindrops on their tongue in the meadow.  This unique linear park took us to school at Mary Lin and to the MLK Center on quiet curving paths. It showed us unique art installations, and connected us to six other neighborhoods. It’s hard now to imagine that the Carter Center sits at the nexus of what was to have been a monstrous cloverleaf interstate junction!

Recently, there as been a renewed interest in the incredible story of how CAUTION and citizens from these Eastside neighborhoods  rallied to do what was considered impossible — stop Georgia DOT, big business and special interests from bulldozing even more homes and grabbing green space to build an interstate connector between Stone Mountain and I-75/85.

Bert Skellie with his 5-year-old son picketing against Freedom Parkway during a public hearing, Atlanta, Georgia, June 8, 1983. Copyright AJC, courtesy of Georgia State Univ. archives.

Last February a pop-up exhibit entitled “Protest, Pickets & Parkways” displayed posters, photographs and newspaper articles chronicling the road fight. This event was located at an Inman Park gallery overlooking both Freedom Park and the Beltline, providing a look at both the past and the future. Last August, a 25 year anniversary gathering was held at Dellwood Park, part of the Olmstead Linear Parks on Ponce de Leon Ave, to celebrate the legal settlement which ended the 10 year battle to “Stop The Road”.

On that sunny afternoon in Dellwood Park, I had the honor of addressing those gathered on behalf of the current Freedom Park Conservancy Board of Directors. My youngest daughter, now a senior at Agnes Scott, and Laura were volunteers that day. On behalf of the conservancy, and my family, I expressed the gratitude of all those who now live in the vibrant neighborhoods that have flourished over the intervening years. We also made a commitment to build on the gift they bequeathed to all of Atlanta.

With the metropolitan population expected to double over the next twenty years, it is clear that Freedom Park will be greatly impacted by in-town development.  In 2007 the City Council passed a resolution naming Freedom Park as Atlanta’s Arts Park. To realize its full potential, Freedom Park cannot go into the next 25 years without a vision for its future. As an integral and vital component of a transforming urban area, a master plan for the park is needed, and a professionally run conservancy to oversee it.

This year, the Freedom Park Conservancy (FPC) has begun delivering on that commitment. The FPC has received two significant grants; one for design services from Perkins + Will, and a private grant to hire an executive director. Utilizing pro bono hours donated by Brodbeck Board & Brass, the FPC is finalizing a strategic plan that will create a board capable of managing a significant annual budget, embarking on a capital campaign, and creating an RFP to bring a new master plan to market.

We all envision a park that is an asset to the city, a safe and beautiful space that is an inspiration for the next generation of ‘rain catchers’. We look forward to the challenge and to working closely with the neighborhoods during the master planning process anticipated to kick off in 2018.

Now is a great time to join us – please consider donating to the FPC by clicking the yellow donate button on the left of this page. 

 

Steven Cushing
President, Freedom Park Conservancy
steve.cushing@freedompark.org

 

Freedom Park Gets a Spring Cleaning on Earth Day – 4/22

Help us give the park a little love this weekend by helping out with our first annual Earth Day cleanup event!  Volunteers should wear sturdy, close-toes shoes and work gloves (extra gloves will be available). Bring a water bottle, bug spray, and sunscreen. This event is free and all ages are welcome, but all children must be accompanied by an adult. 

Come find us at the white tent with Freedom Park Banners – we will be located just below the Freedom Farmers Market on the eastern end of the parking area.

See you this Saturday!

Enter To WIN #FreedomParkPups Instagram Challenge!

Want to win a gift card to @javavino? ☕️☀️ We’re having a #freedomparkpups contest from now through Sunday, April 2nd! Post a photo to Instagram of your dog walking, napping, playing frisbee, skateboarding, hanging out in a baby backpack, or whatever your dog likes to do and we’ll select a lucky winner at random. The two rules are that the photo of your dog must be in Freedom Park and you must tag us @freedompark_atl and use the hashtag #freedomparkpups to enter the contest! Contest is also limited to US residents only. We’ll be in the park this Saturday (4/1) with dog treats and water, so come say hey! And thank you to @elliewren_thebrit for being our puppy model! 🐶.

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

Freedom Park, Atlanta's Art Park