Built in 1892 as a back-up to the city's strained water supply system (which at that time was located near Lakewood Amphitheatre), the 204-acre Westside Waterworks complex once allowed people to gather on the greenspace surrounding the reservoir bordered by Howell Mill Road, 17th Street and Northside Drive. According to some sources, a fence was erected for security reasons at the suggestion of federal officials prior to the 1996 Olympics. (If you have a different recollection of the timeline, please let us know in the comments.)
Since then, the reservoir, which offers breathtaking views of the city skyline and Buckhead, has been cordoned off. The move, while necessary to protect from sabotage or contamination, has prevented nearby residents and businesses from enjoying what could be majestic greenspace in a part of town that's lacking such amenities.
The simple idea of removing the fence and allowing Atlantans to reclaim what could be parkland akin to Central Park's reservoir — think running trails around the ponds — has been broached before. Alex Garvin considered an Atlanta Waterworks Park one of his "four jewel parks" that could be created by the Beltline. From his "Emerald Necklace" study about the 22-mile greenspace loop:
A creative design analysis may determine that an effective and more attractive barrier—like the handsome wrought iron fence around the Central Park Reservoir—will enable user access once again. Thereby, the land surrounding the Waterworks could be reopened to public use as the barrier is moved closer to the edge of the reservoir. The recovered land could then be made inviting, and if at any time in the future the basins themselves are no longer needed, the fence can be removed and two wonderful lakes opened to public use. Whether or not the lakes become available for public use, reopening of the parkland would trigger rapid redevelopment of adjacent commercial buildings and derelict residential structures.
That possibility encouraged Berkley Park Neighborhood Association President Terry Horgan in February to ask city officials to begin exploring the proposal.
"The space was intended to be parkspace, so why keep it jailed up?" Chris Palmer, a Westside resident who's created a Facebook group to rally support for the proposal, says in an email. "And in the current political climate, in which the city is slashing park budgets as I type this, doesn't it make sense for them to use land they already own to open up a new park? It's a cheap option, one that will do wonders for the neighborhood."
As with everything, there's good news and bad news. First, the bad: Welcoming residents on to the land could require some investment. There would most likely need to be a buffer between water and parkgoers and some areas might need to remain cordoned off for security reasons. What's more, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would have to sign off on such a move.
The good news? Conversations between park officials and the city's Department of Watershed Management, which has jurisdiction over the reservoir, about such issues have already begun. Parks Commissioner George Dusenbury told CL on Saturday that the he'd like to see the concept happen.
Could it take years for the proposal — which we should stress is in the very early stages — to come to fruition? Yes. Could it fail? Sure. Is it an interesting idea? Damn right it is. If you're interested in supporting the group or learning more about the Waterworks Park proposal, check out Palmer's Facebook group.
Kasim sure doesn't seem to be shy about throwing his weight behind highly flawed allies…
The answer to changing minds is tolerance, respect, patience and persistence. All of which can…
"Wow. Condescension on one end, and hyperbole on the other." --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- You don't know me…
It's encouraging to see so many improvements being made in Downtown right now, from the…
And it is... hence the part about 'shall not be infringed. Period.