Marietta Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly surveys Birney Street Park in Marietta on Sunday. The park has received some renovations, including to the sidewalk, but plans are in the works to extend the sidewalk and add a stairway to make accessing the park easier.
Plans are also in the works to upgrade Gramling Street Park, which is situated between Atlanta Road and Powder Springs Street in Marietta. At present, there is only one pair of swings for children to play on, a trash can and two picnic tables in the park.
MARIETTA — The city’s unspent federal block-grant money from the Slum and Blight project will be redirected to three city parks. On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously voted to redirect more than $237,000 from the Federal Community Development Block Grant Program. The amount comes from the more than $127,000 not used in fiscal 2011 and $110,000 from 2012. The federal program provides annual grants to cities and counties to develop “decent housing and a suitable living environment … principally for low and moderate-income persons,” according to a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Since 2003, the Marietta Housing Authority has knocked down almost all of its public housing units, giving residents Section 8 subsidized housing vouchers to live wherever they choose, provided their landlord participates in the federal government’s low-income Section 8 housing program. According to Mitch Bland, Marietta’s housing and community development manager, there are no planned slum and blight projects in the works for the city, but the federal monies must be spent by the end of 2014. Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly, who chairs the parks, recreation & tourism committee, said allocating the excess money to city parks is an approved use of the federal program, as long as the funding provides for a better quality of life for low-income residents. The report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said the grants can be used to improve or construct public facilities. More than $200,000 of the federal funds will be allocated to the city’s parks and recreation department. Nearly $20,000 will go to Birney Street Park, $67,000 to Grambling Street Park, and more than $120,000 to Blackwell Street Park. Rich Buss, director of parks and recreation for Marietta, said much of the money will be used to make these city parks comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Small parks to get needed attention
Kelly said the group of parks are tucked away in lesser known areas of the city, so much so that many residents are not even aware they exist. “I am looking forward to having parks in each of those communities,” Kelly said. “Everybody deserves to have a nice park that they can enjoy spending the day with their kids that is recreational.” Birney Street Park is a 1.5-acre neighborhood park near the corner of Fairground Street and North Marietta Parkway. The park has a playground area, but needs a pathway with a ramp and rails from the street to the picnic areas and play equipment. Buss said construction at Birney Street Park will start soon and take 30 days to finish. “A contractor has been selected, we were just waiting for funds,” Buss said. The second project will be a small, 0.35-acre neighborhood park in a low- to moderate-income area, Buss said. Grambling Street runs between Powder Springs Street and Atlanta Road. The park only has a couple of pieces of equipment with swings and a slide, but the city wants to add more climbing equipment. The site plan still needs to be drawn and then the parks department will have to collect bids from contractors, Buss said. The project would be completed in six months or more. The final project is Blackwell Lane Park, which is east of Cherokee Street south of the 120 Loop. In April 2011, the City Council approved purchasing the vacant lot for $84,000 from the $25 million parks bond passed in 2009. The city has fenced off the barren property, which includes a concrete foundation from a four-unit apartment that was torn down after being damaged by a storm. Buss said there is no specific design for the property near a creek, and the project will need more funding before it is completed.