Nonprofit raising money for paved path at Chimney Park

COVINGTON -- It's been more than five years since the nonprofit Friends of Newton Parks Inc. was formed to raise money for a community park to serve people of all ages and abilities. Chimney Park has not yet been fully developed, but members of that nonprofit are still plugging away, getting one component done at a time, as funds become available.

Last year, enough money was finally in place to stabilize the chimney that is the focal point and namesake for the park, a remnant from an old mansion that was once located on the site, behind Newton County Library.

Now the next step is to get a paved path onto the property, which has proven difficult to access for those with wheelchairs, walkers and strollers due to mulch and vegetation growth. Friends of Newton Parks Chair Jean Austin obtained permission from the Board of Commissioners Tuesday to construct a paved pathway to be located on the south end of the Newton County Mental Health Center and to run into the back side of the park. The county donated the land for the park several years ago, but funds raised have been through the nonprofit. Now that permission has been obtained, the board must find the money to construct the path, Austin said.

The hope is that will be done through a Sept. 14 fundraiser honoring David Waller, former director of the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

A Toast to David Waller will take place at Charlie Elliott Conference Center. The invitation-only event will benefit Chimney Park, and donations honoring Waller are welcome.

With fundraising becoming especially difficult over the last few years due to the economy, Friends of Newton Parks has focused on raising awareness to bolster community support for its mission. Two annual events, Twilights at Chimney Park in December and the Fairy House Festival in May, have been very successful. Though this year's Fairy House Festival was canceled due to inclement weather, the Twilights event drew about 1,200 people, Austin said.

"People are starting to respect what we do. I really think you'll see some tremendous progress in the next two years," she said.

The county's multi-use trail running through the park has been put to good use by citizens and local Boy Scouts have improved the ambiance with Eagle Scout projects such as construction of a bridge and pergola.

Another goal is to obtain an easement in order to run permanent power and water to the park, and once that happens, it may be possible to obtain grants for plantings, Austin said.

For more information on Chimney Park, visit www.chimney-park.com.