On April 15, the will open 35 new acres of land at .
The new park land -- which is part of a 53-acre planned expansion -- will open just in time for the 75th annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival, a juried artist festival April 15 to 17 at the park.
Piedmont Park, which is currently 185 acres, will add an additional 35 acres featuring an interactive fountain and trails that curve through a wetlands area with at least six springs. The conservancy has worked to improve Clear Creek, which runs through the east side of the park, by removing concrete culverts and restoring the stream banks. Recent improvements from the city of Atlanta also have helped improve the ecology of the area.
"I can't believe, not only how much they've done, but how fast they've done it," said Shawn Brown, a Midtown resident for six years. Brown was one of about 10 people who toured the new park land on Friday.
Play in the Fountain
People should enjoy the new interactive fountain, which sits to the east of the SAGE parking deck next to the .
"We think this is going to be really popular," said Chris Nelson, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the conservancy. Nelson led a tour Friday as part of the "Phoenix Flies" events being held this month by the Atlanta Preservation Center.
The fountain is similar to the one at Centennial Olympic Park, but two-thirds the size.
Underneath the streams of water are LED lights with "a million" color options, said Summer Edge, major gifts manager for the conservancy. "At night, it's just absolutely gorgeous. It's really a sight," she said.
By the interactive fountain, there are several solid granite benches. The benches were mined and milled in Elberton, Ga. Nelson said the granite benches will match the original structures built in the park for the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition.
The area also features two lawns that are perfect for flying kites, Nelson said. More than 1,000 trees have been planted around the fountain and lawns, he said.
"We want parents to bring out their little toddlers," Nelson said.
The conservancy incurred unforeseen costs in building the fountain. The land once was "just a huge dump," Nelson said, where the city of Atlanta disposed of green waste like leaves and limbs. That activity created unsuitable soil, which had to be removed prior to the construction of the fountain.
Walk through Wetlands
Another new feature that will open April 15 is a wetlands area that sits to the west of the dog parks. There are six or seven springs in the area, and people can walk along a boardwalk through the marshy land. Three permanent ponds have been created to encourage visits from water fowl like mallard ducks and Blue Heron.
The conservancy and the city of Atlanta have made major improvements to Clear Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River that runs through the east side of the park. Concrete culverts have been removed and work has been done to reduce flooding and erosion. The creek was re-routed in a meandering pattern to improve the water quality and "re-establish good critters in the creek," Nelson said.
"Now we've got Clear Creek as an amenity," Nelson said. People will have "a lot more things to do when you come to the park," he said.
Work will continue to improve the ecology of the area. Six undergrad teams from Georgia Tech are doing research on the excess of iron in one of the "daylighted" springs.
The conservancy has received $40,000 from Southern Company for a wetland restoration that will begin in April. They will be planting lots of native species -- such as native irises, yellowroot, swamp daisies and sweet shrub -- to attract song and migratory birds to the area.
Fun for the Future
The conservancy hopes to open the remaining 18 acres of the planned 53-acre expansion by the end of the year. The nonprofit group still needs to raise about $2 million to complete the park improvements.
Once the money is raised and the work is finished, the conservancy will open a trail that curves through a wooded area in the northeast portion of the park, along Clear Creek. The trail once was a carriage road when the park was farmland that belonged to the Walker family before the city bought it in 1904. The trail runs contiguous to the Atlanta BeltLine trail and will connect to Piedmont Avenue.
The conservancy also will open an 11-acre area at the north end of the park (by Ansley Mall) that was "one big sea of kudzu," Nelson said. The area will be turned into a Bermuda-sodded sports field. It won't be regulation size; it's intended for pickup games and fun. The conservancy also wants to cultivate a meadow there with native grasses to attract butterflies and birds.
A new entrance to the park will be constructed to Monroe Drive, where the former Agnes and Muriel's restaurant sits.
The administrative offices for the conservancy eventually will be moved into a new multi-use building that will face Piedmont Avenue by Ansley Mall, along with a snack vendor and skateboard park. But this is part of the next expansion phase, which will require a $20 to $30-million capital campaign. The current administration building one day could be turned into a cafe or restaurant.
If you'd like to help with fundraising efforts for the conservancy, consider coming to the Wagging Tails and Ales event on Wednesday, March 16.