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Marshall to visit future park site Sept. 2

COVINGTON - U.S. Congressman Jim Marshall, D- Georgia, will visit the future site of Chimney Park on Sept. 2 to tout the pending No Child Left Inside legislation that will provide more public funding for environmental education for students.

The public is invited to attend the event, which will take place at 6 p.m. at the park site behind Newton County Library on Floyd Street.

"Newton County is fortunate to have a visit from Congressman Jim Marshall. He and his staff have been very supportive of our community by working to earmark approximately $1.2 million federal dollars for our local trail projects," Newton County Special Projects Coordinator Cheryl Delk said. "We are looking forward to hearing from him on Sept. 2 about the No Child Left Inside bill and how, if passed, this bill and the associated funding can support other local recreation projects focused on getting our children outside to play for fun and health."

The legislation, also known as House Bill 3036, will earmark federal funding to states to train teachers in environmental education and to operate model environmental education programs, which include outdoor learning. It will also provide funding to states that create environmental literacy plans to ensure that high school graduates are environmentally literate and provide an environmental education grant program.

A small portion of the funding could be designated for projects such as Chimney Park, said Barbara Morgan, vice chair of Friends of Newton Parks, the group heading up the fundraising effort for the project.

The group is relying heavily on donations from the public for completion of the project and is pursuing several grants.

Friends of Newton is hoping Marshall's visit will draw attention to the project, for which they are trying to raise $350,000 for construction documents.

"Fundraising is not the best at the moment as everyone knows, so we're trying to get the concept of the park in Covington and Newton County residents' minds and build support for it," Morgan said.

Chimney Park is intended to be a playland designed with special-needs children in mind. The total cost for the project could run between $3 and $3.5 million.

Friends of Newton Park recently achieved nonprofit status, which means donations to the project are tax-deductible.

"It's real timely to have achieved nonprofit status with Jim Marshall coming to speak, because some of the thinking and philosophy behind development of the park is very much tied with the idea of environmental education and experience for young people in our community," said Josephine Kelly with Friends of Newton Parks. "Especially in communities experiencing rapid growth, it's important to maintain park spaces like Chimney Park to preserve the tree canopy and vegetation indigenous to areas like that."

A representative with Marshall's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.