By John Schaffner

The kickoff of the spring Northside Youth Organization (NYO) baseball and softball play usually is enough to get everyone excited and to fill Chastain Park with parents and children. And it did just that March 21.

But other activities in the park that day included the introduction of more than 30 recycling bins donated by Coca-Cola at the ball fields and other strategic park locations and the spring kickoff event for the Chastain Park Conservancy in the afternoon.

Even before the NYO’s traditional opening day parade, Coca-Cola showed up at the park with its recycling van and crew to introduce the recycling program for the park. Kids and adults alike were able to play games, win prizes and learn more about the value of recycling.

Sherri Kimmell, the Conservancy’s spokeswoman for the program, said a group of park neighbors partnered with the Conservancy to spearhead the program. Mark Root, the Conservancy’s past executive director, enlisted the support of NYO, one of the park’s largest partners, to lead the effort by placing recycling bins at each of the sports organization’s fields.

The recyclables being collected include plastic bottles, aluminum cans and glass. The program targets the drink containers many people bring to the park and empty while spending time there, Kimmell said.

There are 24 collection bins around NYO’s fields, two at the Chastain Arts Center, two at the Chastain Tennis Center, two at the playground and four along the path on West Wieuca Road. The pool also plans to begin recycling when it opens in May.

Later in the day, the Chastain Park Conservancy honored Maj. James Sellers, the retired Atlanta police Zone 2 commander, for his support in protecting the park environment. The organization also discussed its 2008 accomplishments, which included 10,608 volunteer hours on 43 park projects, and set an agenda for implementing the park master plan approved last year.