Published on February 9th, 2016 |0
Chastain Park Conservancy keeps growing ‘family room’ experiences
Known as Play Chastain and Walk Chastain, the two construction projects presently provide the most publicly visible park improvements spearheaded by the Chastain Park Conservancy but they are only a small part of the non-profit’s buzz of daily activities at the 268-acre park.
Those two projects are the focal point of the Conservancy’s present $5.2 million capital campaign, of which $4.8 million has been raised, according to the organization’s executive director Rosa McHugh, who spoke to the Buckhead Business Association on Feb. 4. She referred to the park as the peoples’ “family room.”
Explaining that Chastain is a program park, McHugh told the Buckhead business organization there are 11 separate entities that operate in the park, including the Chastain Horse Park, Chastain Park Athletic Club, Northside Athletic Association, North Fulton Golf Course, Chastain Tennis Association, Chastain Park Amphitheater and Chastain Arts Center to name a few.
The Horse Park and tennis clubhouse facilities were among the first major visible improvements as part of the 2008 Master Plan. The tennis center was the first Earth Craft building constructed in a city-owned public park. The Horse Park is nationally known for its programs with physically and emotionally impaired children and veteran adults.
The Chastain Athletic Club, which is operated by former Chastain neighborhood association leader Jim King, is presently undergoing a $1 million-plus project to add a roof to the swimming pool in order to provide year-round team and member swimming.
The roof over the pool’s swimming lanes will rise 47 feet at its highest point and the structure will cover an area 135 feet wide by 85 feet long. Other portions of the pool will remain uncovered. Construction of the roof is expected to be completed this month.
McHugh also told the business group’s breakfast meeting that Live Nation, longtime operator of the Chastain Park Amphitheater, “is looking at updating that facility”—not expanding it but improving the present facility and upgrading the stage and sound systems for today’s needs.
Each of the 11 entities runs its own operations, but they cooperatively work with the Conservancy, which is responsible for the park’s common areas with a mission to restore the park to its grandeur, enhance the park’s offerings to the public, maintain it as a clean and safe and green environment and preserve it for use by generations to come.
Operating from what McHugh refers to as the Conservancy’s “shabby chic” offices in a World War II Quonset hut building on the south end of the park’s 18-hole golf course, the 12-year-old Conservancy has 28 board members, 1,500 household members and conducts four major annual fundraising events on an operating budget of $450,000 a year.
She said the Conservancy provides about $1,200 per acre towards the park’s operations in addition to the city’s annual financial support. Most of its constant maintenance work is done by a corps of over 60-plus volunteers.
In addition to the present construction projects, one of the major additions the Conservancy has made to the park is a large, well-maintained urban garden adjacent to the Quonset hut. The Conservancy, with the support of a north Fulton corps of professional gardeners, offers a series of urban farming classes at its facilities. (See earlier BuckheadView story here.)
McHugh announced that the Conservancy just received funds for a greenhouse at the urban farm, which will extend the growing season and afford opportunities to expand the gardening series.
As she did before the Buckhead Business Association, McHugh will be able to demonstrate real visible progress on both the Walk Chastain and Play Chastain projects, as well as discuss new additional opportunities for the park at the Conservancy’s annual breakfast meeting Feb. 26.
Despite rain delays that pushed the completion into 2016 from the end of last year, the park’s expanded and rebuilt playground reopens this month after the $2.5 million makeover that expands the play area from 10,000 to 40,000 square feet. A formal opening for the playground is scheduled for March 19.
McHugh says the renovated playground, which begins at the corner of West Wieuca Road and Dudley Lane, will provide a place where families from surrounding neighborhoods can come together. The expanded amenities add new swings and three ground-level slides, a tree house structure, a musical play area, bathrooms and open areas. She said it will serve as an outdoor community center where families can have picnics while their children play. A second phase is yet to come.
One of the most recent opportunities that McHugh is very excited about is an offer by the Brett family of Sandy Springs to locate their Play Me Again Pianos program to the pavilion at the playground.
Play Me Again Pianos is a clone of an international program called Play Me I’m Yours, which places pianos that have been painted into pieces of art by local artists, in public places for children and adults to play as they desire. McHugh said the acoustic piano is presently being decorated by a local artist for placement soon in the park.
Meanwhile, on the west side of the park along Powers Ferry Road, The PATH Foundation is reconstructing the 5-foot-wide sidewalk with a 10-foot-wide trail—a proper extension of the walking and jogging trail PATH built years ago around the rest of the park.
McHugh told the business audience that 500,000 people and 10,000 dogs walk the PATH each year at Chastain Park and they come from all over the Atlanta area to do so.
The work on the Walk Chastain project also was slowed by rain and by required work to move utility lines along the path. The present target for completing the project is May 1. In the meantime, some joggers are dangerously running in the street in the area where the sidewalk has been torn up, bringing complaints to the Conservancy.
The good news, Play Chastain and Walk Chastain are two major Conservancy projects that have been long in planning but now will be essentially completed by the end of spring.
That will be good news to share at the Conservancy’s annual breakfast meeting Feb. 26 at 7:30 a.m. at the Horse Park. The featured speaker for the event—the first of five major events for the year—will be Cynthia Gentry, director of Play Atlanta, who will present a paper entitled “Play Chastain, Growing Up Playfully.”
The other four events are the annual Wine & Gourmet Tasting in mid-April, the annual TriPATHlon race at the park on May 1, the Rock Chastain concert at the Chastain Amphitheater in October and the Holiday Chastain tree and holiday decorations sale event in late November and into December.
(For more information about the Chastain Park Conservancy, click here.)