Third Street Park improvements showcased in Macon

pramati@macon.comDecember 5, 2013 

Local officials celebrated improvements made to Third Street Park during a Thursday dedication ceremony.

The Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission unveiled the revitalization efforts at the park between Riverside Drive and Cherry Street, which includes the planting of 400 new azaleas, 16 new Yoshino cherry trees and several hardwood elms. In addition, workers overhauled the park’s irrigation system.

“I look around the park, and it’s beautiful,” Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said. “It shows what can happen if folks work together to make things happen.”

The revitalization of the park cost $30,000. About $16,000 came from interest earned on a previous special purpose local option sales tax, which had been designated for beautification projects. Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful raised another $8,000 from the sale of about 1,500 Yoshinos last year. The rest of the funding came through donations from local businesses and foundations, said Pam Carswell, president and CEO of Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful.

Carswell said the idea behind the design was based on a 1980s painting of Third Street Park that depicts the Yoshinos in full bloom. She said many of the trees in the park needed to be replaced, and the azaleas and elms will provide added protection to the Yoshinos.

“We’re hoping to provide a place that all of our citizens can enjoy year round,” she said.

Carswell said the Wesleyan Woods Garden Club donated camellias around a dedication marker that honors William Fickling Sr., who was the key figure in bringing Yoshinos to Macon.

During the half-hour ceremony, the Central High School Ensemble performed two songs and Macon Mayor Robert Reichert read the Joyce Kilmer poem “Trees.”

“I’ve heard it said that the best time to plant a tree is yesterday,” Reichert told the crowd.

The portion of Third Street Park that received the improvements also is known as “Dempsey Park” in honor of T.C. Dempsey, who provided the land in 1914 to the city to build the Dempsey Hotel at the corner of Cherry and Third streets.

Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful was created 40 years ago. Carolyn Crayton, who helped create the organization, noted some of the well-known people who have participated in events at the park, usually as part of the Cherry Blossom Festival. She recalled that in 1983, weatherman Willard Scott of “The Today Show” came to Macon to do his weather report. It snowed, which caused the blossoms not to bloom.

In 1984, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush planted a Yoshino in the park. But that tree was dug up later that night and stolen.

At the end of Thursday’s ceremony, officials lit the park’s stone lantern that was donated by the YKK Corp.

Carswell said there are plans in the works for more improvements to Third Street Park between Cherry and Poplar streets.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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