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City approves gazebo, benches, historical marker for the Square

A statue honoring the fallen Confederate soldiers of Newton County sits in the middle of the Covington Square Park. The City Council approved changes on Monday in order to beautify the downtown park. The plans are to erect a gazebo for outdoor concerts, purchase additional park benches and allow the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society to install a historical marker. Those changes will go before the Newton County Board of Commissioners this month. (Staff photo: Julie Wells)

A statue honoring the fallen Confederate soldiers of Newton County sits in the middle of the Covington Square Park. The City Council approved changes on Monday in order to beautify the downtown park. The plans are to erect a gazebo for outdoor concerts, purchase additional park benches and allow the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society to install a historical marker. Those changes will go before the Newton County Board of Commissioners this month. (Staff photo: Julie Wells)

COVINGTON – The Square Park could soon receive a facelift.

In efforts to beautify the downtown park, the Covington City Council agreed during Monday’s meeting to build a gazebo, purchase park benches and allow a Civil War historical marker be installed.

The city agreed to take on the responsibility of maintaining the park from the county in November. However maintenance of the park did not include permanent changes to the Square, such as benches, retaining walls or hardscapes. The city is required to get permission from the county for any permanent changes.

City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said the park changes proposed would be presented to Newton County Board of Commissioners this month in order to “get the ball rolling.”

The city has not chosen a gazebo design yet and is unsure how much it would cost to build. But Main Street Covington will contribute $14,000 for the structure and the city would pay the remainder.

“The permanent structure would be located near where the pavers exist and would allow for concert-performers to have a stage and not have to build or break down a temporary one,” Knight said.

The pavers are located at the corner of Washington and Church streets, the southeast quadrant of the Square.

Planning and Zoning manager Randy Vinson is currently designing the structure. Attempts to reach Vinson before presstime were unsuccessful.

Arts Association Director Buncie Lanners is a proponent of the city building a gazebo since the the association often hosts outdoor concerts at the park.

“We’re very excited to have a permanent structure. We often have bands that need to be out of the weather elements and not having to depend on tents that fly away is far superior,” said. “I think it will beautify, make the sound better and make concerts more special. Both of our concerts on the Square in collaboration with Main Street are well-attended by seniors, special needs adults, school children and business people. It’s become a wonderful way to bring the community together. The gazebo will be a nice way to make the Square more official by providing a facility for bands and concerts.”

In addition to building the gazebo, Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon said the Square Park currently has four park benches and the city would likely add four more.

“We have certain responsibilities for the Square and this is the first step in that arrangement,” Mayor Ronnie Johnston said. “This is an upgrade and hopefully come spring, we will have full-fledged maintenance plan.”

At no cost for the city, Whitfield-Murray Historical Society wants to install a historical marker at the Square.

Bouchillon said the marker would indicate an area on the Square where General Sherman’s troops slept during the March to the Sea in 1864.