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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy birthday, Historic Fourth Ward Park

A year ago Monday, Mayor Kasim Reed dedicated the Historic Fourth Ward Park and officially opened it to the public. Since then, the park has hosted events like Art on the Beltline, pole dancers, the Cans Film Festival and performances by gloATL. It's also brought a lot of positive attention and activity to a once neglected part of the city.

District 2 City Councilman Kwanza Hall tells CL, "Historic Fourth Ward Park has exceeded our expectations in the year since it came online."

The idea for the park, or at least a retention pond to help control flooding in the area, was born in the early 2000s by environmental activist Bill Eisenhauer. Trust for Public Land soon became involved and, with the help of the city and civic leaders, pushed along the idea. Between 2007 and 2008, Hall joined 1,000 other residents and businesses to create a master plan for improving the neighborhood. Hall said, "One of the plan's priorities was for the park to be a gathering place for families."

And that's what it's become. Crystal Wells, a resident of downtown who watches four kids during the summer months, says her young charges beg her to take them to the park. They play on the splash pads, while skaters ride in the 15,000 square-foot skate park, and owners walk their dogs along the two-acre retention pond.

Besides being a place for the community to congregate, sources say the park has been an economically positive addition to the neighborhood.

Neighborhood Planning Unit M, comprising Downtown, Castleberry Hill, Sweet Auburn, and the Old Fourth Ward, contributed 10 percent of the entire cities growth over a decade. In the past three years, hundreds of new residents have moved to the neighborhood, housing prices around the park have stabilized, and there's a general sense of excitement about what's to come in the future. Good things, it seems: the scheduled completion of Ponce City Market in 2014 and the development of apartments to the west of Masquerade will draw even more residents and visitors within walking distance of the young greenspace.

So, Historic Old Fourth Ward Park, here's to a good first year - and lots of good years to come.

NOTE: We've updated the post to include additional information about the creation of the park.

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