Tightening county and city budgets may be putting the squeeze on amenities such as parks and greenspaces. But that hasn’t stopped neighbors across the metro area from joining forces to reclaim and recreate abandoned or overgrown areas, and working together, turning them into community focal points.
One such group using their collective energy to enhance the neighborhood is based in the Oak Grove/LaVista area of DeKalb County. Area residents from several subdivisions have banded together to transform seven acres of overgrown weeds and invasive plants into a place of natural beauty within walking distance of their homes.
A year ago, the county stepped in and purchased the plot, just east of the Vista Grove shopping center, from a developer who at one time eyed the property for houses. Despite having just a short frontage on LaVista Road, the property is actually a dense forest of pines and hardwoods, complete with a meandering stream, that expands well beyond the street.
Locals have unofficially dubbed the land the LaVista Greenspace. With the support of Park Pride and the county, they have organized several Saturday work days that have drawn around 50 volunteers from the area’s homes, churches and civic organizations.
“Everyone around here has positive feelings about this park,” said Nancy Love, one of the work-day organizers who spent a recent chilly Saturday handing out county-supplied shovels and rakes to volunteers. “We’ve had an Eagle Scout put in a small bridge, and we’re looking for donations for more. And we have lots of opportunities for more projects like that.”
Love, who has lived in the nearby Sagamore Hills neighborhood for 30 years, chairs a “friends of the park” group that also includes local schools, churches and businesses, as well as neighborhood and civic associations. Support for the project also came from students at the Arbor Montessori School who researched the history of the area. Teams of middle schoolers traced the land’s roots back to the 1800s, when it was home to a small community of African-Americans who farmed around the site.
“Working together has been such a positive community experience,” said Love. “A lot of people have gotten behind this park.”
Input from the community has put a high priority on making sure the park is accessible for disabled and elderly residents and protecting, wherever possible, many of the native plants that are being uncovered beneath the weeds, saplings and underbrush.
“We found some rare plants here under the privets and sorghums,” said Love. “We’re working to clear out to make room for things we’d like to have, like a playground and an amphitheater. We definitely have big dreams!”
Each Saturday, we shine a spotlight on a local neighborhood, city or community. To suggest a place for us to visit, e-mail H.M. Cauley at email@example.com or call 404-514-6162.
If you go
Volunteers are welcome to roll up their sleeves for the park’s upcoming clean-up dates on May 18 and June 15. Coffee and equipment will be on hand by 9 a.m. in the eastern corner of the Vista Grove shopping center.