Nonprofit forms to raise funds for park

COVINGTON - A new nonprofit organization has been formed with the task of raising money for a community park to be located behind the Newton County Library.

A group has been working for more than a year to raise funds and awareness about the park, which is intended as a recreation spot for people of all ages and abilities, including children with special needs.

Though the county has donated the land for the park, no government funds will be used for the project, which will cost an estimated $3 million.

Grants and private donations will be relied upon instead.

With the formation of the new non-profit, Friends of Newton Parks Inc., donations are now tax deductible, said Connie Waller, who serves on the marketing and public relations committee for the park.

About $20,000 was raised during the design phase of the project.

The next step, hiring a firm to draw up construction documents, will cost about $300,000, Waller said.

Friends of Newton has applied for two grants from private foundations, both of which are still under consideration, she said.

"We've been waiting for the establishment of the 501c3. Now that is done, we can really go out and seek funding," she said.

A conceptual master plan for the park was completed by students at the University of Georgia's Metropolitan Design Studio at Clark's Grove.

The plan included three key elements, all meant to inspire creativity, learning and fun: the Secret Garden, Whispering Woods and Play Plaza.

The Secret Garden is the entryway to the park, its central feature being a granite foundation and 30-foot-high chimney, the ruins of an old mansion owned by the Martin-Patterson family.

The garden is intended to be a place for visitors to sit and read, have story-time, play games and observe and listen to nature.

From the Secret Garden, a forested trail - through the Whispering Woods - will wind down a slope to an opening bordered by a ring of trees where large boulders create a small amphitheater for story-time sessions.

Down the slope, a ramp will lead children into a tree house for more resting, reading and story-time.

The county's multi-use trail will run through the woods and converge with secondary trails where interactive sculptures such as wind chimes and textured mosaics will be located, along with exercise stations for senior citizens.

The final section of the park will be the Play Plaza, which will include play equipment, a zero-depth water spray feature, a tree-lined plaza with seating walls and benches, and a miracle field, for softball games for children with special needs.

Eventually, the park will connect with the Newton County Trail system linking schools, the library and the downtown.

Organizers are soliciting bids for construction documents, with a firm expected to be selected within the next two months, Waller said.

The park will be built in phases, with phase one expected to get under way in the fall.

"We feel like this is such a wonderful opportunity for families, from the youngest to the oldest, and people of all abilities to be out of doors at the same place with activities that are appropriate for their age and abilities," Waller said.

Anyone interested in viewing the conceptual master plan for the park may e-mail Cheryl Delk at cdelk@co.newton.ga.us.

Donations may be sent to Friends of Newton Parks Inc., 1124 Clark St., Covington, GA 30014.

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