New Lindsay Street Park a preview of Westside’s future, say fans
Purple fall flowers bloom in the new Lindsay Street Park in English Avenue. It’s a modest-size site, a block wide, with places to play and relax on either side of a little trickle of stream that will flow into Proctor Creek, and on into the Chattachoochee River. At a ribbon-cutting on Wednesday, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said Proctor Creek’s cleanup is going to be very significant for the City of Atlanta.
“We’re only going to do more and more and more. And mark my words. Our reclamation of Proctor Creek is going to be one of the most significant things to happen in the life of the City of Atlanta,” he told nearly a hundred city notables and English Avenue neighbors at of the official opening of the park, the neighborhood’s first greenspace.
“We’re going to pull back the trash and the mud and we’re going to show folks that the City of Atlanta has a heart that is connected to the Chattahoochee,” said Reed.
The little creek was once invisible under the kudzu and other plants choking what’s now the park. For more than a year, private organizations and the city have been fighting back the kudzu and replacing an abandoned house with paths and the playground.
Proctor Creek and the little streams that feed it wind through some of the Westside’s poorest neighborhoods. A lawsuit in the 1990s forced the city to pull tons of aged garbage out of the creek and stop letting so much raw sewage overflow from sewage treatment plants into the water. Now, parts of it look as pleasant as a north Georgia mountain stream, and even developers are paying attention.
Reed said Lindsay Street Park is part of a massive effort to “uplift” English Avenue and Vine City. Some of the other efforts, he said, are the city’s recent agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers to study Proctor Creek rehabilitation, and a $30 million federal Housing and Urban Development grant for nearby neighborhoods that he predicted would leverage some $350 million in overall investment.
The park “is just a piece of what is to come” in terms of greenspace and Proctor Creek, said Michael Halicki, executive director of Park Pride, a heavyweight nonprofit that advocates for more and better parks in Atlanta.
“English Avenue, here is your first park,” Halicki said. “And it’s really a downpayment on a larger greenspace vision to come.”
The property is not just a park, but also helps the city deal with the kind of storm water surges that can flood low-lying neighborhoods and carry garbage into creeks. It’s meant to demonstrate how flowerbeds and low spots and different kinds of soils can absorb pools of water safely off the street during downpours, filter out some pollutants, then allow cleaner water to trickle slowly into the creek.
“This is a very emotional moment,” said Tony Torrence, a neighborhood resident but also one of the movers behind getting the park built, as president of the Atlanta Community Improvement Association and co-chair of the Proctor Creek Stewardship Council.
“We’re ready to work. We’re ready to get this party started on the Westside. We’re ready to get all the investors,” said Torrence, to applause.
He said English Avenue is ready to sit down with investors and see what both sides can do for and with each other.
One of the things English Avenue will do as it rises, he said, is take care of its own.
“Theres a thing called gentrification that we are aware of, but if we stick together, if we stick together, every resident in this hood can be and shall be saved,” said Torrence. “There’s no reason for us to build a park if we can’t help the people.”
A range of private and nonprofit groups, such as Park Pride and The Conservation Fund, as well as the city, bankrolled the park and the works on the site. Much of the park construction was done by the Greening Youth Foundation’s Atlanta Youth Corps.