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Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden
How a native wildlife garden was established in a city park.
The First Steps:
The Freedom Pack Bird and Butterfly Garden has been established as a joint project of Atlanta Audubon Society and the DeKalb Master Gardener Association. Its goal is to develop a small area of native wildlife habitat in a public space which might, in a small way, restore our vanishing wildlife habitat. Another goal is to provide information to the surrounding community about such habitats as well as involve that community in the development of the garden. The Garden is an all volunteer project.
Freedom Park, home of the Carter Presidential Library, is a 210-acre greenspace of rolling hills near downtown Atlanta. Trees Atlanta has been very active in the park but there is little in the way of multilayered habitat that would benefit and attract birds and/or butterflies.
There were several steps involved in establishing the garden as there are several public and private entities which oversee the park. Once Atlanta Audubon Society and the DeKalb Master Gardener Association agreed to pursue the project we had to obtain approval from those entities. We began in June, 2004.
We first approached the Freedom Park Conservancy, an advisory coalition made up of residents of the neighborhoods which surround the park. The Conservancy was very supportive of the idea and suggested we come up with a site plan and present it to their Park Improvement Committee.
Our next step was to walk through the park and decide on a feasible location for the garden. We chose an area on North Avenue, near the corner of Candler Park Drive. The site was close to a footpath, offered both sun and shade, and didn’t interfere with park maintenance activities. We then drew a plan for the area noting what native plants we’d be putting in and where.
We took our plan to the Freedom Park Conservancy Park Improvement Committee which heartily endorsed the project. One of the selling points, in addition to enhancement of the site, was that funds were not being requested from the Conservancy or the Parks Department
After getting endorsements from the Conservancy in August, 2004, we next pursued approval by the City of Atlanta Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Affairs. This required a good deal of persistence. The project wasn’t approved by the City until January, 2005.
The City then required us to sign a contract with Park Pride, a non-profit group that oversees and encourages development of parks and greenspace throughout the Atlanta area. This 3-year agreement outlined the responsibilities of the Master Gardeners and Atlanta Audubon Society, the former to plant and do quarterly reviews of the garden and the latter to maintain the garden.
Our first plants were put into the garden in May, 2005, followed by plantings and enlargement of the site in the fall of each year. Presently there are over 40 species of native plants in the garden, each bird, butterfly and/or insect friendly. Many are drought tolerant. A bluebird box at the edge of the garden has been active. A bird bath is now on the site. A low fence has been placed around the garden. There is a sign identifying the garden as an Audubon/Master Gardener Project.
As a proactive approach to involving the community, a quarterly email update about the garden’s progress is emailed to Conservancy members, Parks Department personnel, neighbors and volunteers as well as to local news outlets and other interested garden enthusiasts.
Our volunteer recruitment has been proactive as well. We’ve established a relationship with Mary Lin Elementary School, just up the hill from the garden: students from the gifted classes there have helped with each fall planting.
Other groups which have helped with planting and maintenance, in addition to Atlanta Audubon and the DeKalb Master Gardeners, include the Freedom Park Conservancy, Ecoaddendum, Georgia Tech’s Team Buzz School and Paideia School, as well as some of the neighbors across the street from the garden. Volunteer opportunities have been included on local environmental email lists as well. The Atlanta Public Works Department, Sanitary Services Division, has been helpful in removing yard waste from the site during planting and maintenance activities.
The garden, itself, will take several years to mature. Identifying markers are being placed by all the plants. A footpath through the garden will be developed. The garden will continue to be monitored. Plants will be removed and replaced as needed.
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