The City of Douglasville is moving forward with projects outlined in the comprehensive Parks Master Plan.
The Douglasville Parks and Recreation Department completed the Parks Master Plan in 2018. The goal of this plan was to create a blueprint for Douglasville Parks and outline community priorities for projects, programs, and services moving forward.
“This has become our roadmap for how we operate our programs and how we deliver services to the community,” Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Chris Bass said in a release about the Master Plan. “When we started this process we knew that this plan would ultimately determine what our parks will look like for the next 10-15 years. So for us, the most important part of the plan was ensuring that the community was informed, involved, and engaged with the entire process.”
Throughout the planning process, city staff held numerous public input meetings, community engagement meetings, online surveys, and virtual Question and Answer sessions to both inform the public about the planning process and gather input about what citizens wanted to see in Douglasville parks. Information gathered from the public provided valuable data about the current strengths and weaknesses of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, park facilities, and community needs.
As part of the planning process, a Parks and Recreation Advisory Board was put into place, comprised of citizens, to give continuing community input on facilities, programming, and other parks related questions.
“The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for the City of Douglasville is comprised of a variety of diverse individuals representing all corners of the city,” explained Steve Hord, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club and member of the Parks Advisory Board. “This volunteer board is tasked, with among other things, assisting in collecting and evaluating community needs and wants in regards to leisure service opportunities, and that would include cyclical master plans to keep up with our patrons’ interest.”
Out of this citizen engagement came a list of priorities that the citizens of Douglasville wanted to see regarding our Parks and Recreation Department. Some of the priorities listed by the citizens included an interest in aquatics and swimming facilities/programming, the need for additional youth programming, exercise and wellness programs for multiple age groups, desire for sidewalk and trail connectivity, special events programming, and better communication with the community regarding the City’s parks, park facilities, and parks and recreation programs.
With the Master Plan in place the city is now moving forward with implementing projects identified in the study. A complete renovation of Mill Village Park was completed in 2020 adding a walking trail, pavilion and new equipment. The next project will be a similar renovation at Willing Workers Community Club Park with work set to begin in April. Plans are also underway to complete a large-scale renovation and upgrade to Jessie Davis Park which will see the addition of many of the programs and amenities the community had asked for in the Master Plan.
These three renovated parks will eventually be tied together with a multi-use bicycle and pedestrian trail system which was deemed a priority in both the Parks Master Plan and the recently completed Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. Both of which were based largely on community input.
“One of the other subjects that we wanted to take a closer look at was the possibility of the train returning to Hunter Memorial Park,” said Parks and Recreation Direct Travis Landrum. “It is a question that comes up occasionally, so we wanted to include that in the planning process and determine whether it was truly a community priority or even a possibility based on the many challenges and growing expense to make it happen.”
Based on the results from polls, surveys, and other community input, the train was determined to not be a priority for the city or the citizens and therefore focus was turned to other, higher prioritized projects throughout the city.
“I served on the Steering Committee for the Parks Master Plan and am currently chairman of the Park Advisory Board,” explained Barry Gamel. “The community input process was more than adequate for individual items such as the train and I remember almost zero support for the train.”
The train was originally removed for renovations. After the storms and floods of 2009, major portions of the track were damaged or washed away. There was also extensive damage to the dam at the park which required years to repair. As a result of the floods and subsequent repairs, the original track footprint is no longer a viable option to replace the train. The streams and natural waterways around the lake create limitations on what can be placed there based on restrictions set by the Environmental Protection Division.
“Overcoming these logistical challenges makes the train project a very expensive endeavor,” Landrum said. “So as part of our master plan process we asked the community whether this was a priority that we needed to pursue. Overall the response we received from the study showed that citizens would rather us commit resources to park renovations, adding new amenities, connectivity and trail systems, accessible play areas, and new programs across all of our parks as opposed to dedicating resources to the train project.”
With the Master Plan in place and projects moving forward, the Parks and Recreation Department is continuing to seek community involvement and public input as they proceed with renovations and relaunching their park programs and activities. The last public input meeting was held on March 4. The hybrid meeting invited both in-person and virtual attendees to voice their opinions on new features to be added as part of the upcoming Jessie Davis Park project, specifically focusing on the pool and water play area being proposed.
If you want to get involved and stay informed about what’s happening in the city’s parks department, you can join the Douglasville Parks and Recreation Facebook group. The group hosts regular surveys, virtual events, and public meetings to further increase community engagement and can be found on the City of Douglasville Facebook page.
For more information on the Douglasville parks and Recreation Department you can visit their website at DouglasvilleParks.com.