A couple of years ago, LuAnne Waller started dropping by the little park on the corner every now and then to pull some weeds. The place needed attention, but nobody seemed to pay it any notice.
“The park has always been something I wanted to do something with,” Waller said. “I’ve been over there weeding. I always wanted trees there. I think I was the only one giving it any attention.”
Waller’s a landscape designer. She had ideas for how to spruce up the area — known as Eagle Park because it was built as a boy scout’s Eagle project — and other properties at the corner of Mount Vernon Highway and Dupree Drive in Sandy Springs. She drew up landscaping plans for the corner, although she had no idea whether anyone would ever follow them.
The Wallers checked around to try to get help on the project, but nobody seemed sure who was responsible for the park. City officials in Sandy Springs told the couple they weren’t sure it was a city park. The neighboring properties along Dupree Drive were owned by various entities, including the city of Atlanta’s water department and the Crossroads Primitive Baptist Church. Unscreened utility boxes added to the clutter around the park.
Last year, the Waller’s neighborhood came together to fight a plan to build a cell tower near the corner. LuAnne and her husband, Tim, were involved. The neighbors kept the cell tower from going up, and something else happened, too. They forged a community. “The good thing that came out of that was we really got to know our neighbors,” Tim Waller said.
The Wallers started talking with the neighbors about their ideas for Eagle Park and the surrounding properties. Their ideas caught on. The city agreed to take care of the park if the neighbors fixed it up. Soon neighbors were offering to help. Property owners joined in.
Once work started, things moved quickly. The utility company landscaped around the boxes. New trees went in around the water tank to help shield it from the road. Trees Sandy Springs bought some special trees to plant in the park. On April 16, more than 20 volunteers from Volunteer for a Better Sandy Springs remade Eagle Park, putting in 63 new trees and shrubs.
“We just found a lot of help,” Tim Waller said. “Once we got going, we just couldn’t believe it. It seemed like every time we got stuck, somebody showed up [to help].”
While many were involved in the plantings, the Wallers sparked the project. “They were the genesis [of] having the vision to beautify the park as part of the neighborhoods,” said Sandy Springs City Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny. “The Eagle Park project was an outcome from the community’s coalescing to make a difference in their neighborhood by taking proactive efforts to keep out the proliferation of unsightly utility boxes, and add landscaping ‘screens’ to make the area more attractive.”
Meinzen McEnerny calls the end result “fabulous.”
“What this neighborhood and its leadership has done to beautify their neighborhood is to be commended,” Meinzen McEerny said in an email, “and it shows that quality of life matters to residents in Sandy Springs and they are willing to do their part to preserve their neighborhoods.”
LuAnne Waller said she now has a list of neighbors who’ve agreed to help her tend the park and the new plantings. They’ll weed and water and otherwise make sure the new plants take hold on the corner.
“That’s been the best part – meeting everyone,” LuAnne Waller said. “People getting involved and people getting excited. It’s really grown into something big.”