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Fun in the sun: Fairview Community Park opens

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Six-year-old Jenny Rodriguez enjoys the monkey bars at the playground at Fairview Community Park. Jenny, a Fairview Estates resident, couldn't wait to start playing: She ran onto the playground before the dedication ceremony was finished.

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Six-year-old Jenny Rodriguez enjoys the monkey bars at the playground at Fairview Community Park. Jenny, a Fairview Estates resident, couldn't wait to start playing: She ran onto the playground before the dedication ceremony was finished.

COVINGTON -- For all the predictions about how important the new Fairview Community Park will be to the neighborhood of Fairview Estates and all the words of praise to those involved that were spoken at the dedication on Wednesday, none could compare to the actions of one little girl.

Six-year-old Jenny Rodriguez, accompanied by her parents and big sister, attended the ceremony. As soon as Jenny saw the playground, she couldn't help herself: She ran right past the men and women in suits and dresses making their speeches, climbed up onto the play area and proceeded down the slide over and over again, giving a delightful squeal of "Wheeeee!" each time.

It was just the response that those who have worked for two years to make the park a reality have been hoping for: "I'd rather hear a child playing than myself speaking," said Glenn Misner with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

The park is the first to be built with federal Neighborhood Stabilization Funds in Georgia, Misner said. The 12 acres was purchased from SunTrust Bank for approximately $300,000 and construction costs were about $200,000. Its completion has been an uphill battle, as residents of the neighborhood came out in opposition during the early stages of the project, then later expressed their approval. The neighborhood remains split on the project, according to the residents.

"I enjoy walking the trail, but I was looking for something for the teenagers. There's something for little kids but it stops there," said Evelyn Flowers, who has a 14-year-old daughter. The park includes playground equipment, passive greenspace, a paved walking path and pavilions. Commissioner Nancy Schulz said there is room to expand should more funds become available.

"I think something positive will come out of all of this. Certainly, as we move forward and take control of our Homeowner's Association we are looking forward to bigger and better things in the community at large," said Sharon Collins, president of the Fairview Estates Homeowner's Association. "We hope to continue to work with the county commission and to have a cohesive relationship and develop the park as the community grows."

Residents of the community, victims of a builder who abandoned the neighborhood before it was finished and unkept promises for an amenities package, have had to fight to get control over their homeowner's association and have implemented a Neighborhood Watch program to reduce crime. Many say the ordeal has brought the community closer together.

Still, Board of Commissioners Chairman Kathy Morgan acknowledged mistakes were made in the beginning by the county.

"We didn't get the community involved. We did not engage the community to work with us to develop this park. What a force this community is ... Now they have found their voice," she said.

Schulz said residents there are a "beacon of hope, not only for your neighborhood but for our community at large."