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Reporter’s Notebook: Chattahoochee Nature Center celebrates infrastructure improvements

Chattahoochee Nature Center River Boardwalk Trail and Connection Bridge Dedication - March 15, 2022 (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Spring has sprung and warm weather in Atlanta means it’s officially the season of festivals. From now until Sunday, April 10, you can head downtown — across from Georgia State University’s Center Parc Stadium — to visit the Atlanta Fair, celebrating its 50th year. Get an early taste of summertime with cotton candy in one hand and maybe a paper bag in the other — in case one of the rides gets the better of you. Click here for more.

On to other local news:

Testing out the new bridge. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Chattahoochee Nature Center celebrates infrastructure improvements

Last week, the folks with the Chattahoochee Nature Center (CNC), Fulton County officials and residents gathered to unveil the Center’s new connection bridge and revamped River Boardwalk Trail. 

Park-goers will notice one improvement pretty immediately — a new pedestrian bridge directly connecting the CNC main campus to the River Boardwalk Trail, rather than crossing Willeo Road when accessing the riverside.

Once in the nature center, visitors will see the 2,000-foot boardwalk — well-used for nearly 40 years — restored using high-quality, sustainable materials. 

“It’s a game-changer for CNC and the entire community,” Board Chair Clarence Jackson said in a press release. “The River Boardwalk [Trail] and Connection Bridge will provide a conduit for the community to discover the ecology of our area more intimately while fostering a greater understanding of and connection with nature.

The CNC is a nonprofit environmental education organization with a 127-acre nature center neighboring the Chattahoochee River.

SaportaReport’s Kelly Jordan visited the grand opening; click here to see more.

— Hannah E. Jones

Sustainability funds helped pay for upgrades at Pullman Yards

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens was on the stump Tuesday at Pullman Yards to raise awareness of a financial tool that can help owners of commercial buildings pay for repairs that reduce the structures’ consumption of water and energy.

The owner of Pullman Yards, Atomic Energy, accessed $3.8 million in retroactive financing from Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm, for a new roof and insulation at one building in the complex. 

“The city’s program provides financing for energy efficiency, and renewable energy building improvements, since the cheapest energy is not wasting energy, and this program also helps move Atlanta forward toward its ‘100 percent clean energy goals’ by the year 2035,” Dickens said in a statement released after the event.

The funding was provided through the Ygrene Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy program. Invest Atlanta has authorized the issuance of up to $500 million for C-PACE projects. The Ygrene Energy Fund administers the program, according to a report by Invest Atlanta.

— David Pendered

Photos by Kelly Jordan

Preservation nonprofit Historic Atlanta seeks first-ever executive director

The preservation nonprofit Historic Atlanta is hiring its first-ever executive director as it enters its fourth year.

Founded in 2018, the nonprofit focuses on underrepresented history. It operates or is forming committees focused on Atlanta’s Black, LGBTQ, Asian, Latino and immigrant communities. Board chair Charles Lawrence said the all-volunteer organization is having “growing pains” and has been raising money for a couple of years to hire an executive director.

The position, focused on fundraising and communications, is offered as a part-time job on a one-year contract, with the hope of growing it to permanent and full-time.

“We are really excited to meet all the applicants who share our passion for using historic preservation to uplift traditionally marginalized communities and can’t wait to see what the new executive director will do,” said Lawrence.

For details, see the Historic Atlanta website.

— John Ruch

Rutherford Seydel, Laura Turner Seydel, former Mayor Shirley Franklin, Kimberly Dickens and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens at the Captain Planet Foundation Gala (Special: Captain Planet Foundation)

Captain Planet Foundation raises more than $750,000

The 30th anniversary of the Captain Planet Foundation’s annual gala honored Bill Nye, “the Science Guy,” activist and award-winning actor Jane Fonda — via video broadcast — and Jerome Foster III, the youngest White House Advisor in history, on March 19 at Flourish Atlanta.

The Gala raised more than $750,000 for the global nonprofit that works to empower young people to become problem-solvers for the planet. Captain Planet is based on the animated television series “Captain Planet and the Planeteers,” created by Ted Turner and Barbara Pyle.

Bill Nye at the Captain Planet event (Special: Captain Planet Foundation)

Over the past 30 years, Captain Planet Foundation has funded more than 3,300 hands-on environmental education projects with schools and nonprofits. At least 1.6 million children have directly participated in and benefited from these educational projects in all 50 states and in 90 countries.

“What a night. I am so grateful to everyone who is investing in and supporting Captain Planet Foundation and the Planeteer Alliance – which is working with thousands of young activists around the world to scale change-making campaigns for a livable future,” said Leesa Carter-Jones, president and CEO of Captain Planet Foundation.

During the program, Fonda called for cutting “our fossil fuel emissions in half.”

Nye said he was hopeful for the future. He said the “economic opportunities are huge” if we make the big changes necessary, and that young people would lead the way. “Young people want to be part of something bigger,” he said. “I’m very excited about the future.”

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens spoke fondly of Ted Turner and his contributions to the earth through the Captain Planet Foundation and his philanthropy.

Attendees at the Captain Planet Foundation Gala listen to Jane Fonda speaking via video (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Turner’s daughter Laura Turner Seydel told the gathering it was the first gala her father had missed, but she added he is doing well and living his life to the fullest. Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin also attended the dinner. Delta Air Lines was the Gala’s visionary sponsor. Tim Mapes, Delta’s chief marketing officer, represented the airline at the dinner.

— Maria Saporta

Bill Bolling

Atlanta Food Bank Founder Bill Bolling honored by ULI Atlanta

ULI Atlanta recently announced that Bill Bolling will be honored with The Dan and Tally Sweat Community Leadership Award during the organization’s 26th annual Awards for Excellence dinner. 

The award, established in 1998, recognizes someone in the nonprofit or public space who has made great strides in “promoting responsible land use” in the metro area, according to a press release.

Bolling is highly involved in the Atlanta community, serving as a devoted advocate to ensuring everyone has access to quality food and affordable housing.

He founded the Atlanta Community Food Bank in 1979, serving as its executive director until 2015. He is also a founder, chair and senior advisor of the Food Well Alliance and is the founder and convener of the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum.

Bolling co-founded SaportaReport’s sister publication Atlanta Civic Circle with Maria Saporta and currently serves on its board, along with the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Inspire Brands Foundation, Convergence, Georgie Forward, the Regional Commission on Homelessness and the Deans Council of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. 

ULI is a nonprofit education and research group aiming to use our built environment to bring a transformative impact to communities.

The Awards for Excellence dinner will be held on Thursday, May 19, at The Eastern. Click here for more information.

— Hannah E. Jones

The Ormewood Avenue Bridge is slated for a new look. Special: City landmark designation report

BeltLine plans mural on newly landmarked historic bridge

A mural is proposed for the newly landmarked Ormewood Avenue bridge by Atlanta BeltLine Inc. (ABI), whose Southside Trail runs atop the historic structure.

The 120-year-old railroad bridge is a concrete arch that spans the Southeast Atlanta street. It’s a traditional gateway between the neighborhoods of Grant Park and Ormewood Park. The City granted the bridge official landmark designation last year, meaning that approval is needed for alterations or demolition.

The bridge is now part of the Atlanta BeltLine trail and transit corridor. The Southside Trail remains in a rough stage pending construction. ABI has announced a March 28 virtual meeting for Southside Trail updates that will include a presentation about the mural.

According to ABI, the artist is Drew Borders, who was selected as part of the organization’s 2021-2022 “Art on the Atlanta BeltLine” program. ABI indicated that the selected work is “The Fates,” a depiction of the characters from ancient Greek myth as Black women. Borders did not respond to a comment request.

The mural proposal is in its preliminary stages of review by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission (UDC), which has authority over landmarks. The UDC will not rule on the content of the mural, but will consider the project as a type of repair or maintenance, according to internal City emails.

For more details about the March 28 meeting, see the ABI website.

— John Ruch

Gwinnett County’s Board of Commissioners has provided $2 million to fund transit expansion in the budget that took effect Jan. 1. (Photo by David Pendered. 2020)

Gwinnett County expanding paratransit, microtransit services

Gwinnett County is advancing its plans to expand bus transit over the coming year, starting with the $2 million allocated in the budget for the current calendar year approved Jan. 4 by Gwinnett County’s Board of Commissioners.

Commissioners approved the first major expense on March 17. Gwinnett is to purchase a total of 14 paratransit and microtransit buses. The $2.3 million cost is to be paid with $400,000 from the county transit fund, and the remainder from the Federal Transit Administration, according to a statement from the county.

The paratransit buses are to serve three new routes scheduled to open later this year and in 2023. The microtransit vehicles are to serve the Snellville area, picking up in early 2023 from where a successful pilot program stopped after its test from late 2018 to early 2019.

The budget adopted in January anticipates the expansion of transit services over the coming three years will increase local bus service by 58 percent, commuter bus service by 20 percent and paratransit by 40 percent, according to a synopsis of the budget.

— David Pendered

APS host virtual job fair for teachers

On Saturday, March 26 Atlanta Public Schools (APS) will host a virtual teacher job fair from 9 a.m. to noon. 

Current teachers, veterans and other professionals considering a career in education are welcome to attend. 

Representatives from the district’s traditional schools will be looking for all grade level and subject areas including special education, fine arts, math and science, and technical education fields. 

Provisional teaching certificates will be available to those who qualify. 

Register at their website.

— Allison Joyner

Celebrating Greek Independence at the State Capitol (Special- the Consul of Greece in Atlanta)

Independence of Greece celebrated at Georgia capitol

A special celebration to honor the independence of Greece was held at the State Capitol on March 22 — courtesy of Gov. Brian Kemp.

“The event was organized by the [Greek] Consulate in collaboration with the Governor’s office where we received a special proclamation signed by the Governor,” said Theodoros Dimopoulos, the Greek Consul who is based in Atlanta. “It is dedicated to the 201 years of Greece’s Independence, on the occasion of the celebration of March 25, 1821, in Greece.”

Dimopoulos also said Georgia House legislators endorsed a resolution in honor of the independence of Greece. It was endorsed by Representatives Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), Mike Cheokas (R-Americus), Jon Burns (R- Newington) and James Beverly (D-Macon).

Other dignitaries at the celebration with Kemp included: Dimitris Psillakis, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA; Vassilis Hadjidiakos, chief financial officer of Terna Energy USA and Dharminder Chanana, CEO of Intracom Telecom USA.

— Maria Saporta

The trail network is 28 years in the making. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

PATH Foundation completes Chastain Park Trail Network

The Chastain Park Avenue PATH, 0.6 mile-long trail segment, has officially opened — tying together the five-mile-long Chastain Park Trail network. 

The PATH Foundation, a nonprofit that creates and advocates for multi-use trails around Georgia, began the project in 1994 and worked to bring the whole vision to fruition. 

Now, residents can enjoy five miles of paved trail and access one of Atlanta’s largest parks, featuring nearly 270 acres of green space, playgrounds and tennis courts.

SaportaReport’s Kelly Jordan visited the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Scroll to check it out. 

— Hannah E. Jones

(L to R) Virginia Hepner, Judy Greer and Billye Aaron

2022 Heroes, Saints & Legends: An all-female affair

Wesley Woods announced that for the first time in its history, all three of its honorees for the 2022 Heroes, Saints & Legends Awards are women.

The HS&L Gala will be held on Sept. 15 at Flourish in Buckhead.

The three honorees are:

  • Billye Aaron, a retired educator of Spelman, Morehouse, Morris Brown, and South Carolina State colleges, former television personality, and nonprofit executive including the United Negro College Fund and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, director emeritus, and wife of baseball legend Hank Aaron
  • Dr. Judy Greer, retired educator serving a 33-year tenure at Oxford College of Emory University, and she became the first female full professor
  • Virginia Hepner, retired President and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center, former banker and currently director of Cadence Bank, Oxford Industries, National Vision Holdings, and the Westside Future Fund non-profit

“For the first time in our 33-year history, we will honor three remarkable women who have blazed historic trails and widened paths for others through extensive community leadership and passions for Atlanta arts and culture, racial justice, affordable housing, education access and business,” said Diane Vaughan, president of the Foundation of Wesley Woods.   

Since the event’s inception in 1990, 109 of Atlanta’s most exemplary leaders have been celebrated and more than $7.2 million have been raised for charitable care, pastoral care, and wellness programming at Wesley Woods. 

“While Wesley Woods is a critical Atlanta institution for providing affordable housing for our region’s older adults, we provide so much more,” Vaughan said. “Funds raised through Heroes, Saints & Legends opens the door to housing and meals to those who have outlived their resources, on-site chaplains providing pastoral care, and innovative wellness programming to help seniors live independently for as long as possible.”

The 2022 Gala event co-chairs are Clark Dean, executive managing partner at Transwestern, and Bob Hope, president and co-founder of the Hope Beckham communications firm.

Wesley Woods was founded in 1954 by the United Methodist Church and the greater Atlanta community. Today there are 10 retirement communities throughout North Georgia, providing various levels of care, including independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing.

— Maria Saporta

Credit: City of East Point

East Point hosts parade, celebration for Tri-Cities State champs

On Friday, the city of East Point will host a victory parade and celebration for the 2021-2022 Georgia High School Association 5A State champions, Tri-Cities High School Boys Basketball team. 

The parade will begin at the intersection of Ware Avenue and East Point Street at 5:30 p.m. and will travel through downtown East Point. The celebration will happen afterward at 6:30 p.m. at the East Point City Hall. 

The celebration will have an outdoor party with music and a presentation to the team.

— Allison Joyner

86th Annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival: Atlanta’s longest-running festival is back for another year. For the whole weekend of April 8, folks can head over to Piedmont Park for an artist market with over 200 artists, live music and other entertainers. Click here for more information.

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.

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