The Atlanta neighborhood of Vine City, just west of the new Falcons stadium, is getting a new park.
It will have fountains, a playground and an open lawn. There will be statues honoring Civil Rights leaders with connections to the neighborhood, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Julian Bond. The park will also help address flooding issues that have plagued the area for years.
At a meeting over the weekend, community members got to see plans for Cook Park. Stafford and Jennifer McIntosh, Vine City residents who moved from New York, were there with their 3- and 8-year old sons. And they were excited about the plans.
“To me, it’s a small-scale version of Central Park,” Stafford said.
“Small scale version of Central Park,” Jennifer agreed. “And it’s needed, because that area has been dead for years.”
In 2002, a flood of sewage inundated the neighborhood. Instead of rebuilding houses in the low-lying area, the city kept it open, and now, 15 years later, it’s becoming Cook Park.
A pond in the park will eventually collect stormwater from a big chunk of Vine City to keep the sewers from getting overwhelmed when it rains.
“It is a huge step forward to dealing with the issues that this community has faced where flooding is concerned,” Kishia Powell, commissioner of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management, said. “What this allows us to do is to deal with this issue in a way that is cheaper than a lot more gray infrastructure in the ground. Certainly a way that provides some community benefits.”
Alma Lott, who has lived in Vine City for more than 20 years, said she’s not sold on the benefits. She’s worried about property taxes going up, rent being raised and people losing their homes.
“I don’t think a park is a solution,” she said. “They need to hold off on these parks until they get the housing right.”
“We definitely want to make sure we’re revitalizing this community, not displacing it,” said George Dusenbury, the state director for the Trust for Public Land. The nonprofit worked on the park’s design. “This is a park-poor community. More than 3,000 people will be able to walk to this park when it’s completed in about 14 months.”
On a visit to the future site of Cook Park, Dusenbury emphasized what a park brings to a neighborhood: access to nature, and a place to play and meet neighbors. A couple boys nearby were taking shots at a basketball hoop set up on the street while we were there.
“We’re going to have a basketball court probably less than 100 yards from where those kids are playing in the street,” he said.
Work will begin on the park in the next couple months. The city is also beginning work on nearby Boone Boulevard that is also intended to reduce flooding in the neighborhood.