"Get a neighborhood group or non-profit organization that's been around a while and has a solid reputation to stand behind your park."
That's the advice we've been getting from Athens-Clarke Co. commissioners and county staff. They say that ACC is more likely to give a green light to a volunteer-driven neighborhood park project like Boulevard Woods if there's an organization with longevity and credibility backing it up.
Recently, we've taken some big steps to follow that advice.
The steering committee for Boulevard Neighborhood Association, a formally organized neighborhood group with bylaws and officers that has been working to protect and improve the neighborhood since the early 1980s, voted last week to begin what one might call the "adoption process" of Boulevard Woods. First, the steering committee created a temporary BNA committee to help guide the Boulevard Woods project through the next few months as it heads to the Mayor and Commission for consideration.
BNA also gave its chairperson--that's me, Dan Lorentz--the go-ahead to draft agreements with Athens Land Trust, a locally well-known and respected non-profit, to handle fundraising for the project and, when the time comes, with ACC to organize the construction and maintenance of the park. The draft agreements are subject to approval by BNA's steering committee.
Finally, BNA members will vote on Dec. 4 at their annual membership meeting on a amendment to BNA's bylaws that would create a permanent "neighborhood park/public green space standing committee" if and when ACC approves Boulevard Woods. If the amendment passes (and if ACC approves the park), the chair of the park committee would be a regular member of BNA's steering committee.
In one sense, BNA adopted the three parcels that comprise "Boulevard Woods" a couple of years ago under the "Adopt Athens" anti-litter program. But these recent votes mean that BNA is adopting the park project as its own.
For most users of the future park, all this behind-the-scenes bureaucratic stuff isn't that interesting. What is important about what BNA is doing is this: it's sending a signal to ACC that the Boulevard neighborhood is serious about wanting to create Boulevard Woods and about its longterm commitment to it.
Read more about the next steps for the project here.