COVINGTON - It took 10 years to get shovels in the dirt, but local officials finally broke ground on Denny Dobbs Park on Wednesday morning.
"I hope all of y'all are just as happy as I am. This has been a long, long, long deal to make this a reality. This is probably the last step in making this a reality," Recreation Commission Chairman Johnny Presley told the assembled crowd standing under two tents that had been erected in case of inclement weather. Luckily, the rain held off for the occasion.
"It's going to be a great park. I think everybody will enjoy this. And it's going to have a great name on it," Presley said.
The 53-acre park will be located at Richards Chapel Road and Ga. Highway 212 across from Oak Hill Elementary School.
Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey said the park was originally supposed to be located on the opposite side of the street from its current location.
"The Lord blessed us. This is a lot better area for a park, and it's also an area for expansion. We're proud to honor a man who has done so much for Newton County," Hailey said.
The man of the hour, Denny Dobbs, a former Recreation Commission member and former state legislator, said the real credit belongs to everyone who has worked to improve recreation in the county over the years.
"I'm a little bit embarrassed by this. I'm certainly appreciative," Dobbs said, adding that the park could just as appropriately have been named Citizens Park or Volunteers Park.
"Whenever you ride down a road and see a turtle on a fence post, you can be sure he didn't get there by himself," he said, quoting former Gov. Zell Miller. "And I didn't get here by myself."
Dobbs' wife Cathy and sons Lane and Luke were in attendance. Son Bryan was unable to attend.
The park will be built in three phases - the first phase is scheduled to be completed in early spring 2010 at a budget not to exceed $1.48 million.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Kathy Dobbs said the park is being funded with impact fees that have been set aside for recreation projects and cannot be used for any other purpose.
"This park will provide family-friendly recreation opportunities. We feel very strongly about wanting our recreation facilities to be a place for the entire family," she said.
The first phase of the park will include three playgrounds - two for children ages 2 to 5 and one for children ages 5 to 12.
It will also include a LifeTrail, which is a series of outdoor exercise/physical activity stations; NEOS, an electronic game in which players race the clock to slap fast-moving blinking lights; a community field and two outdoor basketball courts.
District 2 Commissioner Earnest Simmons said the residents of his district have been underserved in recreation facilities for years.
"I was talking with some residents last night, and I said, 'I know the kids are kind of restless this summer, but give me one more summer, and I'll have you a park,'" he said.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.