"Look for that to be completed by this fall," Mayor Steve Tumlin said during his State of the City address on Monday. "That is one that is going to be a showcase for the city."
The park renovation will be completed using funds from the $25 million parks bond that Marietta voters approved in November 2009.
Tumlin described the park as, "The one that's near and dear to my heart because I ride by it every day. We traded with the Marietta Board of Education for Hickory Hills Park, that was owned by the Board of Education, and it's getting ready to come out of the ground."
City staff have designed a plan for the park, which has yet to be adopted by council, showing two children's soccer fields, an elevated hill for parents to monitor their children, a playground area with fencing and shaded seating areas for parents, a restroom building, a large pavilion available for rentals, two tennis courts, a walking trail, picnic tables, as well as a parking lot that could hold 139 vehicles, among other things.
In 2006, Marietta's school board swapped the park for the city's old fire station on Polk and Winn streets. Although the school system has long since renovated the firehouse as the headquarters of the school district's foundation, little has been done with the park, although not for lack of trying.
In 2007, then-Mayor Bill Dunaway proposed renaming the park after Tumlin's late parents, Virginia and Steve Tumlin Sr., but was blocked by council members Philip Goldstein and Annette Lewis. Dunaway never could garner the four votes needed to rename Hickory Hills.
And in 2008, during a council retreat and prior to the parks bond being approved, City Manager Bill Bruton said the city had about $2 million to spend on park renovations, suggesting the money be used for Hickory Hills.
But Goldstein complained that the blighted Franklin Road area he represents on the east side of town was being ignored. And Goldstein's ally, Lewis, also argued against the renovations, citing Hickory Hills Elementary School's dwindling enrollment.
Goldstein's argument for Franklin Road getting nothing is no longer valid. In February 2010, the city spent $2.7 million to buy the 13-acre Preston Chase apartments on Franklin Road near Delk Road from Regions Bank, and spent another $410,643 with Environmental Holdings Group, LLC of Buford to demolish the complex, turning the area into parkland.
"Everybody's been waiting a long time for this to happen," said Councilman Johnny Sinclair, who chairs the city's parks committee. "We've been fortunate enough to have a lot of neighbors and people in town to help with the design. Now we've got a great design and we're ready to move forward."