Plans for Westside park honoring Civil Rights legends revived

A planned park that would honor Atlanta’s Civil Rights legends has received a $1.6 million boost after years of delays.

Rodney Mims Cook Jr., president of the Atlanta-based National Monuments Foundation, said multiple donations enable the nonprofit to begin fundraising in earnest for the proposed Historic Mims Park in Vine City — a joint project with the city of Atlanta. Cook co-chairs the effort with Ambassador Andrew Young.

The foundation envisions an 18-acre park with a lake, fountains, towering “peace column,” as well as sculptures of more than a dozen historic leaders. Some of the proposed figures include: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Chief Tomochichi, Dorothy Bolden, Ralph David Abernathy, Booker T. Washington, the late Julian Bond, as well as Cook’s father, Rodney Mims Cook Sr., a former legislator and ally of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Atlanta City Council first approved the plans in 2012, but the project has changed in scope in recent years amid soil testing for pollution and doubts over whether the foundation’s plans are viable. The city, which largely owns Mims Park, is developing a solution for storm-water management on the site.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed’s office said the city is leading the park project and is still in the design phase. Therefore, she said, it’s too soon to estimate the cost of implementation.

At one point, the entire project was estimated to cost around $55 million, which includes a planned museum and “Peace Pantheon” building. The first phase of the foundation’s work, however, will cost an estimated $6 million, according to the nonprofit. San Francisco-based tech leader Joe Lonsdale pledged $1 million to the effort, with $600,000 committed by donors Matthew Middelthon, Jimmy Warren, Rawson Haverty and Lucinda Bunnen.

“One of the most important parts of our history is the peace movement,” Cook said. “We’ve contributed more to that movement as a city and state than probably just about anywhere in the world, and to me, that is our brand.”

The original Mims Park was donated to the city in the late 19th century by Livingston Mims, an Atlanta mayor and Cook’s great-great uncle. The park was replaced by Bethune Elementary School.

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