Village Green Playground and Park Redevelopment
Known as the "Cherry Blossom Capital of the World," Macon, Georgia, is resplendent every spring with blooms from more than 200,000 Yoshino cherry trees. The annual International Cherry Blossom Festival attracts visitors for a variety of events. As spring symbolizes the renewal and rebirth of nature, the Village Green project represents a renewal and rebirth of a neighborhood.
Built in the 1960s and 1970s, the community of Village Green is a lower-income, mixed ethnic community within the city of Macon that has recently been challenged by abandoned buildings, crime, drugs, and gangs. When the housing was constructed, two areas totaling a little less than two acres were set aside for parks and recreation. The parks were intended to provide recreation for the entire community of Village Green. Unfortunately the location was not ideal—access to the parks was limited to narrow easements next to houses that surround the parks, causing the parks to be quite underutilized.
The city of Macon, led by Mayor C. Jack Ellis, the Village Green community, and Village Hope, a nonprofit organization, recognized the need to revive the Village Green parks. With the aid of a City Parks Forum grant, they collaborated to meet this goal through increased programming and significant capital improvements, both of which have increased the use of the park. Village Hope has initiated a program called Kids Club, which occurs the second Saturday of each month with more than 200 kids from the neighborhood participating.
The increased community presence, along with higher visibility of Macon police, has made a positive difference in crime reduction in the parks. The parks and recreation department, along with the police athletic league, are sponsoring athletic programs in the parks. Neighborhood watch associations are coordinating programs with the police precinct assigned to Village Green, and citizens are volunteering their time at the precinct to answer phones and do other needed tasks. The increase police presence in the neighborhood has in turn increased citizen confidence in reporting acts of crime and/or violence, which has helped reduce such incidents by more than 50 percent! The addition of a picnic shelter, tables, and grills, a new playground unit, and new basketball goals are expected to increase the visitation in the park by more than 25 percent, exceeding the goal for their CPF grant.
Michael D. Anthony, Director
Department of Parks and Recreation
P.O. Box 247
Macon, Georgia 31202