Celebrate the Olmsted Linear Park
by Sandra Kruger
THIS YEAR MARKS the 15th anniversary of the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance (OLPA) Benefit Gala, and we are celebrating with a Mardi Gras theme – “Carnival Under the Canopy.” Guests are invited to don their festive carnival masks for this exciting event to support the conservation of the historic Olmsted Linear Park. Festivities take place on Sunday, February 24, at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. The evening will feature New Orleans cuisine from Affairs to Remember Catering, show-stopping entertainment by The Marching Abominables and music to dance the night away. Guests will have the opportunity to bid on wonderful vacation homes, fine wines and other delights in the silent auctions.
Protecting an Urban Historic Treasure
The Olmsted Linear Park stretches along Ponce de Leon Avenue from Briarcliff Road to Scott Boulevard, interweaving between South Ponce and North Ponce. It has a rich history starting with the visionary Joel Hurt of the Kirkwood Land Company. Hurt hired Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., the father of American landscape architecture, in 1890 to design what is now known as the Druid Hills Neighborhood. Olmsted’s design for Druid Hills included six park segments: Springdale, Virgilee, Oak Grove, Shadyside, Dellwood and Deepdene.
Though the original park design remained intact, plants and installations inconsistent with Olmsted’s aesthetic were added over the years. Poor maintenance and the effects of erosion also contributed to its decline. Then in the early 1980s, details of a new road and the Presidential Parkway emerged. It was clear this was a serious proposal with significant political backing. Believing the proposed road would destroy Olmsted’s park and the surrounding neighborhoods, the local community pulled together and created various organizations to fight the proposed freeway. After 10 long years of court battles and political maneuvering, the various parties both for and against the road were able to work out a compromise that today is known as Freedom Parkway.
In 1995, a coalition was formed to undertake the restoration and rehabilitation of the linear park. This coalition included the Olmsted Parks Society of Atlanta, the Druid Hills Civic Association, Park Pride, the City of Atlanta, DeKalb County and Fernbank Natural History Museum. With the guidance of preservation specialists of Olmsted parks, representatives from these groups developed a master plan to restore the park that was consistent with the spirit and intent of the original Frederick Law Olmsted design. The Master Plan was adopted by the City of Atlanta in 1997 and incorporated into the Atlanta Comprehensive Development Plan.
Friends of the “Green Heart of Druid Hills”
At the same time, the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance (OLPA), a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization, was established along with a public-private partnership between local citizens, the City of Atlanta, DeKalb County and Fernbank, Inc. to implement the master plan. With the help of these partnerships and community support more than $10 million
was raised to rehabilitate this 45-acre greenspace and old-growth forest. Today the park is also known as the “Green Heart of Druid Hills,” allowing residents to take advantage of an enchanting place to exercise, teach their kids to ride bikes, commute to work, chat with neighbors or just marvel at the splendor of our natural world within the city. OLPA’s sole mission is to preserve and protect this historic park. Funds raised at the annual gala help support its annual costs of nurturing its extensive tree canopy, pruning plant material, maintaining trails and removing debris from the park. While the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County help maintain the park by mowing the grass and assisting with emergency tree work, without generous, the park would not be the beautiful greenspace it is today.
OLPA extends its sincere appreciation to our Visionary Sponsor – Fernbank Museum of Natural History and many other sponsors to which this event would not be possible: Affairs to Remember Catering, Sprint Print, Mailchimp, Keller Knapp, Tunnell & Tunnell Landscape Architecture, Natalie Gregory, Paris & Associates and the Georgia Chapter – American Society Landscape Architects.
The Gala committee for 2019 includes Gala Chair, Kevin Steward and committee members Lynn Alexander, Toby Brooks, Jenny Fletcher, Beth Grashof, Dick Henneman, Gareth Perry, Julie Ralston, Kate Seville, Nick Stone and Sydney Thompson.