Editor's note: There will be a vote at the June 20th membership meeting for a $5,000 grant to the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance, as discussed in this article.
Posted on behalf of Connie Weimar & the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance
Would you have chosen to live in Candler Park if it were bisected by an elevated highway?
That’s exactly what would have happened 25 years ago if it hadn’t been for the tireless efforts of a protest group known as the Roadbusters and their legal arm, CAUTION (Citizens Against Unnecessary Thoroughfares in Older Neighborhoods). Residents of Inman Park, Candler Park, Poncey Highland, Druid Hills, Little Five Points and Lake Claire banned together to fight for decades to stop first one and then a second proposed highway through the area that is now Freedom Park.
Since this fight began before residents had the Internet to help them communicate and assemble, the communities decided to form a newspaper, the B.O.N.D. Community Star, to keep everyone up to date on developments. Lead writer for this newspaper was Candler Park’s own Jennifer J. Richardson, then known as and writing under the byline J.J. Williams. How influential was her writing and how far was her influence? The next time you dine at Manuel’s Tavern (a known gathering spot for the politically minded), answer that question for yourself when you consider ordering the “JJ Special”, named for Ms. Richardson. (And the fact that Ms. Richardson is a vegetarian with a hamburger named in her honor is just one of many interesting tidbits about her life.)
A lifelong resident of this area, Ms. Richardson now lives on Clifton Road and devotes a considerable number of volunteer hours each year to the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance (OLPA) as a member of the Board of Directors. The Olmsted Parks played an instrumental role in helping to stop the highways when a volunteer Druid Hills Roadbuster (and dear friend of Ms. Richardson) named Sally Harbaugh was able to prove that the Olmsted Parks were indeed designed by preeminent designer of parks Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., a claim most American cities have tried to make about a public space within their jurisdiction, but one that few cities can substantiate. (In fact, the area of Druid Hills’ development and completion of the linear parks took place under the leadership of Coca-Cola magnate Asa G. Candler, for whom Candler Park is named.) Since the highways would have crossed through as many as three (in one proposed route) of the Olmsted Linear Parks along Ponce de Leon Avenue, saving these historic and important parks became another rallying cry for stopping the road.
As you have undoubtedly noticed, the elevated highway was never built and those parks have since been beautifully renovated and meticulously maintained by OLPA, with considerable financial help from the Georgia Department of Transportation, the City of Atlanta, Dekalb County, Fernbank, foundations, corporations, civic associations and many, many generous private donors. OLPA is now in the process of trying to fund an endowment to ensure that the parks will always be as conscientiously maintained. To that end, OLPA has implemented a donor recognition program allowing donors to have various park elements from benches to bridges named in their honor.
Given Ms. Richardson’s substantial contributions to the community over the past three decades, and the obvious benefit the residents of Candler Park reap from having these historic parks serve as a gateway to our community, OLPA would like to recognize Ms. Richardson by naming a bench in her honor by requesting a donation of $5,000 to the OLPA endowment from the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization. On behalf of the other OLPA board members, your consideration of this worthy recognition would be greatly appreciated.