From tree climber to tree protector
AS A YOUNG CHILD, Sandra Kruger lived on a dirt road in DeKalb County, helping to tend her family’s large vegetable garden during summers by cutting okra in the field and shelling peas on the porch. “We spent many days canning vegetables,” Kruger said. And added that she didn’t even like to eat vegetables.
But what she did like – love, in fact – was the connection to the land. There was a the thrill of running into the backyard and playing in the creek that ran nearby and the feel of the wind blowing through the trees on a hot summer day.
And she loved the fun of climbing trees. Kruger’s love for the land and the peace it engenders never left her. It helped bring her to her current position as executive director of the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance. Kruger sees her job as a calling to keep the 45-acre greenspace beautiful now and for future generations.
“It’s the green gem of our neighborhood, the heart of our community,” said Kruger.
“It’s just a pleasure to come to work every day and to take care of this treasure.”
The treasure Kruger refers to is the sixsegment greenspace that runs along Ponce de Leon Avenue. Olmstead Linear Park provides walking trails and a connection to biking trails and the Atlanta Beltline.
Historically, the park was celebrated by Atlantans for its originality and beauty as well as for its distinction of being designed by the nation’s pre-eminent landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. Atlanta businessman Joel Hurt had engaged Olmsted, the designer of New York City’s Central Park, to devise a plan for the area. The park was later completed under the direction of Asa Candler.
Kruger is especially fond of Deepdene segment, the 22-acre old forest that anchors the greenspace close to the Decatur city limits.
“We are very proud of the Deepdene forest,” Kruger said. “It’s a lush forest that provides habitat for wildlife, cleans the air and gives people a chance to be outside. It’s a very calming place.”
The forest is full of American beech trees, which even in winter show off beautiful leaves of a golden blonde color. And experts have identified more than 80 species of birds there, including Carolina wrens and pileated woodpeckers.
“And we have a white oak that is more than 250 years old,” said Kruger. She welcomes hikers and those who just want to sit and relax.
Kruger began her eco-volunteerism at The Georgia Conservancy and the Sierra Club. That led to a volunteer position at the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance and eventually to her current position.
“This brought me back, and it allowed me to immerse myself in the community,” she said. “Being a native Atlantan, it was just an obvious choice. Our mission is to take care of this green community asset. We want to be able to pass it along to the next generation.”