By Amy Wenk
A neglected Buckhead park is coming back to life.
Thanks to generous neighbors, the Peachtree Battle Alliance has embarked on a three-year rehabilitation of the 1.67 acres at the corner of Woodward Way and Habersham Road.
Work on the estimated $11,000 project began April 8 with a two-day cleanup of non-native, invasive plants like privet, English ivy and wisteria. Efforts will continue in phases as funds are raised.
The goal is to restore the land to a passive green space featuring a tributary of Peachtree Creek. Volunteers and contractors funded by community donations will collect litter, control invasive vegetation, remove fallen trees and add native landscaping.
“There are a lot of very caring people who love this land,” said project coordinator Judy Tindel, who chairs the alliance’s parks committee. “They want to see it cared for and preserved in a way that assists its function as urban wildlife habitat but also works to compliment the surrounding residential property.”
Often miscalled Woodward Way Park, the parcel is part of Sibley Park and has been designated parkland since 1910, when architects Carrere & Hastings designed the Peachtree Heights Park neighborhood. It originally was part of the 493-acre estate of farmer Wesley Gray Collier, son of Atlanta pioneer Meredith Collier.
“It’s just so important that we see this land through the lens of the history because that is something that makes it so important and so valuable,” Tindel said.
However historic, the park has been largely ignored. The city of Atlanta does not maintain the area because it is classified as a conservation park.
The lack of care has resulted in overgrown vegetation, fallen trees and eroded stream banks, making the area an eyesore in the stately neighborhood.
After passing the unkempt property every day for seven years, Woodward Way homeowner Betsy Glenn decided to take action. She approached Tindel around December with the idea to restore the park.
“I got tired of walking my dog down there,” said Glenn, who lives about a third of a mile from the park. “It was just so dumpy looking.”
The two organized and began to garner tremendous community support.
“It’s really Betsy’s vision that got this project started,” said Tindel, noting Glenn and her husband, Bob, are instrumental in fundraising for the endeavor.
Neighbors have donated about $3,500, and the project received an unspecified grant from an anonymous foundation.
The Charles Smithgall family, building a house adjacent to the park, has agreed to help finance the reforestation of the site and recommended a landscape architect, John Howard, who restored the garden at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center.
Howard has offered to develop a master plan for the site pro bono, Tindel said.
“Between John Howard’s willingness to support us and the Smithgalls’ interest in the site, we hope to even be able to do more in terms of recovering habitat and beautifying the site more quickly than we had anticipated when we first started the project,” she said.
Tindel also has applied for a $1,000 Park Pride Micro Grant for the project.
Although the work has just begun, Tindel said the two-day cleanup this month significantly improved the park’s appearance.
“It’s amazing to look at it now as compared to when we started, because you literally could not see what was there,” Tindel said. “It was totally just a green haze of plants.
“But now that the privet is removed, you can see that there’s a lovely serpentine stream that runs through the site.”