Each month, City Parks Alliance names one “Frontline Park” as a standout example of urban park excellence, innovation and stewardship from across the country. The program identifies city parks that find innovative ways to meet the unique challenges faced as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures and urban neighborhood decay. In recognition of its innovative practices in partnerships and neighborhood engagement, Tattnall Square Park has been named a Frontline Park.
“Month after month we’ve looked to the Frontline Parks highlighted on the City Parks Alliance website for best practices for non-profit park groups,” said Friends of Tattnall Square Park Board Chair Andrew Silver. “We’ve posted links to these inspirational stories on our own social media and sent them to city officials so they could better understand our national models, and to encourage the city to see our public private park organization as a long term partnership. To join the ranks of these remarkable nationally recognized park models is a powerful acknowledgement of the thousands of hours of volunteer labor and the hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment we’ve brought to this diverse and historic park. We’re thrilled to be part of the 21st century movement to cherish, restore, and reinvigorate our public parks.”
Tattnall Square Park is one of the oldest urban parks in the country, and the second oldest in the state of Georgia. When Macon was founded in 1823, the layout of the new city included numerous parks and open green spaces that were used for recreation, farmers markets, and fire barriers, even near the new downtown business district. During the 1960s and 1970s, the neighborhood deteriorated, and the park was plagued with high crime, the land overrun with weeds and dotted with dying trees. The city went forward with several destructive “improvements” that damaged historic elements in the park, culminating in the near sale of five acres of parkland without community approval.
By the mid-1990s, there were some efforts made to improve the park, but restoration didn’t shift into high gear until the Friends of Tattnall Square Park was formed, and the group received a grant from the Knight Foundation through the Knight Neighborhood Challenge. The main project that kick-started revitalization was a tree planting initiative planned in collaboration between two Mercer University professors, funded by a Neighborhood Challenge grant and resulting in the planting of 200 trees. As part of the College Hill Corridor, the restoration of Tattnall Square Park is integral to the redevelopment efforts happening in communities between Mercer University and downtown Macon. Despite economic challenges, the Friends of Tattnall Square, the Knight Foundation, College Hill Alliance, Mercer University, and other partners have successfully re-engaged the public with this historic square through social media campaigns, environmental learning and volunteer opportunities, programming, and restoration of facilities and structures.