Atlanta residents to get update on westside park honoring civil rights

Residents in Vine City, English Avenue and other West End Atlanta communities will get an update this weekend on a long promised park for the area.

Officials will unveil the latest plans for Rodney Cook Sr. Park, including a rendering of the 16-acre greenspace that will feature statues of civil rights leaders, including Julian Bond, Andrew Young and Hosea Williams.

The project, which has been in the planning stages since 2012, is designed to replace Mims Park, a gathering spot for the community until the 1950s when the land was used to build Bethune Elementary School.

Cook Park, which could cost as much as $50 million to construct, will require having infrastructure improvements. The area for the site, along Joseph E. Boone Boulevard, is prone to flooding and the city has said it would have to spend millions to build a stormwater retention pond to capture the water similar to the one at Historic Old Fourth Ward Park.

Cook’s son, Rodney Cook Jr., a leading advocate for the park, has pledged to raise more than $10 million for the statues through the National Monuments Foundation, an Atlanta-based group of which he is president.

The development of Cook Park has been controversial because originally the plan was to resurrect the Mims name for the greenspace.

Livingston Mims, the park’s namesake and a relative of the Cooks, was an Atlanta mayor. But the community objected because Mims also was a Confederate soldier. A planned statue for Mims also has been withdrawn.

The city late last year agreed to name the park for Cook Sr. as a compromise. Cook Sr. was a member of the Georgia Legislature and a civil rights advocate, voting in 1966 for Bond to be seated in the august body despite objections from his colleagues.

The 1 p.m.- 3 p.m. Saturday gathering will be at Higher Ground Empowerment Center, 561 Spencer Street, Atlanta, 30314.