It’s Wednesday, July 8th, and you can’t find two smiles bigger in Oakland City (Southwest Atlanta) than those on the faces of Jernard Evans and Terry White. These teens, who live within blocks of Reverend James Orange Park and are involved in the recreation center’s teen program, are psyched about the changes they’ve seen take place at the park thanks to the major renovations that have recently been completed.
For years, the Reverend James Orange Park (then Oakland City Park) pool sat empty and unused behind a chain-linked fence. The pool house was closed and inaccessible to park visitors. The playground was deteriorating.
“Not too many people were coming here,” Jernard says. “It was a broken-down place,” Terry adds.
Three years ago, the community decided to push for a park that the neighbors, and especially the youth, needed. The Friends of Reverend James Orange Park reached out to Park Pride for assistance – they had a dream for their park, one that included a pool full of families and a playground full of children. Now they needed a cohesive vision – a master plan. Community stakeholders charged ahead enthusiastically with Park Pride into the Park Visioning process, and soon after, applied for and received a $100,000 grant from Park Pride to demolish the pool and build a brand new playground.
The community’s strength and determination caught the attention of the City of Atlanta, and Mayor Kasim Reed pledged to rebuild Reverend James Orange Park’s pool and pool-house, and install a brand new splash pad.
On July 8th, 2015, hundreds of happy community members gathered to celebrate the fulfillment of that pledge and the hard work of the Friends of Reverend James Orange Park and the City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation at the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the park’s new amenities!
After the ribbon is officially cut, a cheer goes up from the crowd and dozens of day campers rush into the refreshing water. There’s laughter, there’s excitement, and there’s plenty of playful splashing. The feeling of hope for the future, both that of the park and the community, is tangible in the crowd. “It’s different now that the park has been renovated. A lot of people of all ages come out to use the park and support the community,” Terry explains. Jernard is smiling, gazing towards the hoopla coming from the pool, “Now when I come to the park, I feel joy,” he says, and with a laugh, he adds. “After all, you can’t have summer without a pool!”
Because of donors like you, Park Pride is able to offer programming to Friends of the Park groups at no cost, making stories like this possible.