Reed: English Avenue park sign of more to come in Atlanta’s Westside

City leaders are hailing a park in English Avenue — the community’s first — as a sign of what’s to come in broader efforts to revitalize Atlanta’s Westside.

The Conservation Fund and Park Pride worked three years to convert rundown property into Lindsay Street Park, a playground and park with stormwater control features. The project cost about $750,000, with the majority of funds donated by U-Haul, Invest Atlanta, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Boise Paper, the Waterfall Foundation and Park Pride.

Mayor Kasim Reed said Lindsay Street Park symbolizes what local leaders are trying to accomplish in the impoverished neighborhoods surrounding the future Atlanta Falcons stadium. Government officials, as well as nonprofits and private interests, have pledged to address blight and contamination in Proctor Creek.

Those larger problems were evident during Wednesday’s event: The freshly planted 1.5-acre park sits across from boarded up homes and around the corner from a property filled with trash.

“What we’re doing in English Avenue isn’t just about a stadium,” Reed said. “… It literally is about making sure the people who stuck with the city of Atlanta through the toughest times have the opportunity to be around and enjoy it as the city of Atlanta ascends.”

Stacy Funderburke, the Conservation Fund’s assistant regional counsel, said it took years to acquire the land because of challenges in finding absentee property owners and settling back taxes levied on abandoned properties.

District 3 Councilman Ivory Young and State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas praised the group for working with the community in designing the space.

“This is what happens when our partners work cooperatively with the community-based stakeholders to make something happen,” Young said.

Tony Torrence, head of the Atlanta Community Improvement Association and a longtime activist for pollution remediation in Proctor Creek, was emotional as he addressed the crowd. He’s aware of what critics say, that millions in grant dollars were given to Westside organizations, with little to show for it.

He praised cooperation between the nonprofits and local residents in bringing the park to life, noting: “English Avenue is back on the rise.”

Roderick Waddell, who grew up in English Avenue and now lives in College Park, spent the past year working with the nonprofit Greening Youth Foundation to clear out kudzu and trash and build the park. He said Lindsay Street Park is evidence that the area is improving.

“I don’t want to say it’s gloomy here, because it’s where I’m from, but it could be better,” he said. “This is a start.”

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