Hickory Hills Park was once heavily utilized by residents of nearby subdivisions but in more recent decades had been more or less taken over by football and soccer players from other parts of the city. In addition, its walking track had been disrupted by root growth, playing fields were shaggy, signs were faded and the parking lot was potholed.
The City of Marietta for years was reluctant to address the problems because the park was owned by the City of Marietta School system. The result was that Hickory Hills Park had “stepchild” status with both entities.
The city in late 2006 finally agreed to swap an outmoded fire house next to Marietta Middle School to the school system in exchange for title to the park. The Marietta School Foundation under Neil Barfield wasted no time in renovating the fire station for use as the Marietta High School Alumni House at a cost of about $100,000.
But the city’s upgrade for the park took much longer. The city decided to wait until after passage of the 2009 city parks bond referendum to tackle any upgrade, and then finally embarked on a $1.7 million makeover.
The park, which once featured little more than two grass fields with a walking track, now boasts a 10-foot-wide, half-mile walking trail and a large play area for children featuring slides, swing sets and climbing structures. There are age-appropriate areas for those ages 2-to-5 and from 5-to-12.
In addition, there are a pair of tennis courts, a restroom building, three picnic shelters, two youth-sized soccer fields and a one-acre field for games like tag.
And the park is now served by 137 new parking spaces.
In short, it’s a park that was worth the wait, and it’s now geared more for the “little kids” than the big ones..
“One of the things I like most about it is there were so many people who gave input on it, and I’d like to think they’re all going to be happy with the result,” said Councilman Johnny Sinclair, who chairs the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee. “I sense that we’ve hit a home run because girlfriends of mine keep calling me from the car and putting their children on the phone who say, ‘Mr. Johnny, Mr. Johnny, when’s the park going to be open?’ They’re so excited they can’t stand it. It’s adorable.”
Added City Parks Director Rich Buss, “Everybody’s been raving about it.”
And it’s easy to see why.