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Published on March 4th, 2015 |

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Chastain Park Conservancy highlights partnerships, programs

The strong message that resounded throughout the second annual Chastain Park Conservancy breakfast meeting Feb. 27 was one of leadership in creating a vibrant community and park experience through the partnerships among 13 organizations.

Some 50 or more Conservancy board members and stakeholders were joined by representatives of many of those 13 partners on very chilly morning at the Chastain Horse Park headquarters

Yolander Adrean

Yolander Adrean

building to review past accomplishments and talk of new projects.

DSC_0305Dist. 8 Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, who represents and lives in the neighborhoods surrounding Chastain Park, thanked those attending for “creating such a vibrant community and awesome park,” which she described as the premier park in the Southeast.

Adrean said that together the partners and Conservancy have “created this wonderful park experience” through an unusual alliance. “On behalf of the city I want to thank you for being such great leaders.”

Chastain Park Conservancy board chairman Matt Otten, in kicking off presentations by representatives of the 13 partners who

Matt Otten

Matt Otten

were at the meeting, said, “You don’t see this (partnerships) in a lot of parks.”

Northside Youth Organization representative Mark Elliott, told the audience, “NYO at first was skeptical, but was happy to have been proven wrong.” He said his organization plans to be a long-term player at the park and has already been a player for 50 years.

He said NYO has invested $3.5 million into the park with its facilities and ballfields and has also invested $500,000 into the sports fields at neighboring schools. He said NYUO’s projects help everyone else, such as the planned new parking lot, which will take cars off neighborhood streets.

“We aim to be a good neighbor and want to be part of the community through the community of families we serve,” Elliott stated.

Mark Elliott

Mark Elliott

Elliott was followed by Ross Bell of Universal Tennis Academy at the Chastain Tennis Center and then Kirk Oppenlander of the Chastain Civic Association, which represents the neighborhood around Chastain Park. The association now has 897 members.

King Simmons

King Simmons

Then came King Simmons, the pro-manager at the North Fulton Golf Course at Chastain, who has been at Chastain for 10 years and alluded to new programs that would be starting up in March. He said the golf course staff work with 200-300 kids each year.

Conservancy Executive Director Rosa McHugh spoke of the 2 million people a year served by the park and its partners and of the Conservancy’s mission to keep the park “clean, safe and green.”

The Conservancy, which works as a liason to the city’s Parks Department, has 897 members and raised $4.2 million through its capital campaign in 2014, McHugh reported. She said 75 percent of the money raised went to capital projects, with only 25 percent going to overhead.

For 2015, McHugh said the focus is on bringing two major capital projects to fruition: Play Chastain and Walk Chastain, construction on both of which hopefully will begin

Rosa McHugh reports on progress during 2014 and capital projects to be completed in 2015.

Rosa McHugh reports on progress during 2014 and capital projects to be completed in 2015.

in April and be concluded in October.

Play Chastain involves replacing the present park playground, which is 20 years old and can be dangerous according to McHugh, with a brand new, state-of-the-art playground.

Walk Chastain involves widening and improving Powers Ferry Road section of the PATH trail, which encircles the entire park. The project will make that section of the trail more like the section that is along Lake Forrest Drive on the east side of the park.

Before pitching how the partners, their members and the public in general can support the capital projects of the Conservancy, McHugh introduced Ray Mock, the longest-term employee of the Conservancy who oversees park maintenance and runs the volunteer program.

Ray Mock talks about the Conservancy's volunteer program as Rosa McHugh listens.

Ray Mock talks about the Conservancy’s volunteer program as Rosa McHugh listens.

Mock spoke about the organization’s volunteer programs, which includes the “chain gang” of court-ordered volunteers. He explained how he uses other volunteers to work with the chain gain volunteer to flip programs and give them responsibility, with the hopes of turning them away from lives of crime.

The volunteer program was started by former board chairman J.P. Matzigkeit and is carried on by Mock, who meets with the volunteers the first Saturday of every month at 9 a.m. in the Red Lot at the park to work on maintenance chores.

Conservancy board member Jay Smith suggested they might find a better name than “chain gang” but praised Mock “for the effect he has had on young

Jay Smith

Jay Smith

men and women who were ordered to do volunteer community service.”

To find out more about the Chastain Park Conservancy, volunteer to work, or support its programs through membership or donations, click here.

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