by Deirdre Downey Fruh, leader of the Friends of Springlake Parks
Friends of Springlake Parks (FoSP), a nonprofit organization based in the Atlanta neighborhood of Springlake, proudly celebrated the official reopening of its neighborhood “pocket” park, McKinley Wilson Triangle Park, with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, May 19. City Council Member Mary Norwood also participated.
FoSP was established in 2021 with the mission of refreshing and beautifying its three neighborhood parks — McKinley Wilson Triangle Park, Ellsworth Park, and Springlake Park — to make them more vibrant, useful, and sustainable greenspaces for Springlake neighbors and the greater Atlanta community.
The completion of McKinley Wilson Triangle Park represents the first one-third of a comprehensive effort to revitalize the three neighborhood parks. It involved a year-long planning and fundraising effort that brought together a variety of members of the Atlanta community, combining public and private resources to support the park’s revitalization.
“Today’s reopening signifies Friends of Springlake Parks’ devotion to finding ways to capitalize on our green spaces and ensure that they reflect what our neighbors value and at the end of the day are beautiful, well-used and well-loved,” said Deirdre Downey Fruh, FoSP founder and Chair.
To embark on the efforts, FoSP created a survey to evaluate community members’ wishes for park improvements, which was used to guide the development of a plan for McKinley Wilson Triangle Park, as well as the other two neighborhood parks.
“The community envisioned creating a ‘living room’ of sorts in this park, and so we set out to achieve that vision in the execution of our design,” said Patrick Hand, of Integrated Land Design, who served pro-bono as the landscape designer for the park, as well as overseeing its redesign and construction.
The FoSP group was awarded a $5,000 “Small Change Grant” from Park Pride to help with the park improvements. Trees Atlanta donated several trees and provided team members to install them at no cost. FoSP Steering Committee co-chair, Nick Wolfcale, who is an architect and woodworker, contributed countless hours pro-bono to park design and refurbishing the park swing, benches and “little library.” The group commissioned Maryland-based woodcarving artist, Colin Vale, also known as “Carving Colin,” to transform stumps from an eighty-year old oak that fell in 2022 into “thrones” for visitors to the park.
Parks supporter and City Councilmember Mary Norwood, who joined the group for the ribbon cutting, said “We are delighted to be one of the many supporters of the re-opening of McKinley Wilson Triangle Park. This is a wonderful example of a partnership with fellow neighbors and the non-profit and city government stakeholders to refurbish a community gathering spot.” District 8 Councilmember Norwood and former Councilmember JP Matzigkeit provided more than $10,000 to the revitalization effort from their own City Council funds, and at-large Councilmember Matt Westmoreland contributed $1,000.
Kayla Altland, Director of Park Pride’s Grantmaking and Fiscal Sponsorship Programs, said, “We are proud to have supported the Friends of Springlake Parks with a grant and are excited to continue building our relationship to help fuel further improvements to parks and greenspaces in the neighborhood.”
Other major supporters included Springlake Civic Association, Springlake Garden Club, and Hennessy Automobile Companies, Inc. Individual neighbors contributed more than $15,000 in donations to the project. The City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation helped the group think through its plans, facilitate its permitting process and clean up after the oak tree fell in 2022.
With the successful completion of McKinley Wilson Triangle Park, FoSP is shifting its focus to Ellsworth Park — the most often-used park in the neighborhood — with a primary objective of completely replacing the aging playground and improving the park’s entrances and aesthetics. The next objective is to raise funds to complete a comprehensive topographical survey of the park and develop a master plan.
For more information, visit www.friendsofspringlakeparks.org.