Decatur park to be built by pure determination of advocates

By David Pendered

A former eye sore of a gas station in Decatur is to be rejuvenated into a community park once the soil is remediated in a process that could begin as early as Wednesday.

The East Decatur Greenway intends to redevelop this former gas station into a neighborhood park. Credit: eastdecaturgreenway.org

The East Decatur Greenway intends to redevelop this former gas station into a neighborhood park. Credit: eastdecaturgreenway.org

The effort is being led by the East Decatur Greenway, which was incorporated in 2011 to oversee the effort to reclaim the blighted property. Once the remediation is complete, the group intends to start building the park with funds to be raised in the future.

The non-profit organization acquired an out-of-use gas station/convenience store located at 890 Columbia Drive.

The group intends to create a passive-use park with a 1.1-mile multi-use trail that would connect to MARTA’s Avondale Station. The organization is working with PATH Foundation to build the trail.

The organization has proven its wherewithal to face a tough project through the sheer force of volunteers.

No one involved in leadership has received a payment or benefits, such as health insurance, according to tax returns filed with the IRS as posted on guidestar.org. The latest tax form posted on guidestar.com is for calendar year 2013. It shows that no funds were disbursed to the following folks: Michele Ritan, executive director; Amy Robinson, board member; Lisa Prodigo-Nimorwicz, board member.

Through the efforts of volunteers, East Decatur Greenway won a three-year, $200,000 grant from EPA’s brownfields remediation program to clean up the soil and ground water of the former gas station.

East_Decatur_Greenway_PATH_2015_ver1 copy

The future park is to be linked with a multi-use trail to MARTA’s Avondale Station. Credit: eastdecaturgreenway.org

As the organization states on its webpage:

  • “This property at 890 Columbia Drive, along with several adjacent small parcels will create over 2 acres of greenspace that can be used by several local schools, two neighborhood associations (Forrest Hills and Midway Woods), Columbia Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Children’s Home, and many other residents of the area.”

The organization had its work cut out. The remediation was a big effort.

According to an assessment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the site was contaminated with asbestos and petroleum products. The hazards affected the soil and ground water, according to an EPA environmental assessment completed in 2013.

A statement released by East Decatur Greenway says the hazards will be handled in the following fashion:

  • “East Decatur Greenway selected Environmental Technology Resources, Inc. (ETRI) to manage remediation efforts. The subcontractor, Aqua-Terra Recycling, will remove heavily-contaminated soil and groundwater, while mildly-contaminated soil may be treated on-site. Once all contamination has been removed, Aqua-Terra will bring in new soil and complete earthmoving activities to shape the site for the future community greenspace.”

Once the site is remediated, the organization plans to seek funds to build a community park.

This is the vision the group intends to provide to the neighborhood:

  • “For the past year, East Decatur Greenway has been working with residents in Midway Woods and Forrest Hills, as well as the students, teachers, and administrators of the Friends School, the Museum School, and the Waldorf School to seek their input on plans for the future greenspace.
  • “As a result of these visioning sessions, East Decatur Greenway is seeking funding to build an outdoor classroom, seating, bike racks, and passive recreation on the remediated site. Additionally, East Decatur Greenway is working with the PATH Foundation to build a 1.1 mile trail originating at this site. The proposed trail will end at Avondale Estates MARTA Station.”

 

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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