COVINGTON - Congressman Jim Marshall, D-Georgia, came to lend his support to Chimney Park on Tuesday afternoon.
Marshall spoke briefly to an assembled crowd of supporters outside the Newton County Library, adjacent to the future site of the park, which will be accessible to special- needs children and adults.
He called projects like Chimney Park "terribly important to the quality of the community" and stressed the importance of preserving greenspace and trees.
"I fly all over the world, and when the airplane lands and I look out the window and I see a community without trees, I know that community is in trouble," Marshall said. "When I look out and I see trees all over the place, I know the community is viable."
Marshall is a co-sponsor of the No Child Left Inside legislation that would provide federal funding to train teachers in environmental education and to operate model environmental education programs, which include outdoor learning.
Marshall said there likely won't be funding for construction of Chimney Park provided by the legislation but added that it could help fund school activities that take place there. There may be transportation funds that could help with construction costs, he said.
"This community is well capable of doing this, with a little help from others," he said of the Chimney Park project.
Members of Friends of Newton Parks Inc., the nonprofit group that is planning and raising funds for the park were hoping Marshall's visit would raise community awareness.
The group is trying to raise $350,000 to draw up construction documents. The total cost for the project could run between $3 million and $3.5 million.
At Tuesday's event, the group launched a fundraiser called Pennies for the Park, encouraging children and adults alike to donate their spare change.
Friends of Newton Parks Inc. member Kelli Hopkins announced the new campaign.
"This park means so much for us as a family," said Hopkins, who has four children, three of whom have physical disabilities.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Aaron Varner ended the speeches with a hopeful message for supporters.
"It's going to happen folks. It's not going to happen because of the government, it's going to be because of you volunteers," Varner said.
The park will have three key elements, all meant to inspire creativity, learning and fun: the Secret Garden, Whispering Woods and Play Plaza.
The park will be designed to improve emotional and mental health rather than entirely focused on physical activity, according to Friends of Newton Parks Chairman Terry Smith.
Eventually, it will connect with the Newton County Trail system linking schools, the library and the downtown.
Land for the park was donated by Newton County.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.