A new park in Warner Robins hasn’t even officially opened yet but is already being well used.
People are regularly seen fishing and walking at Walker’s Pond, located near the southeast intersection of Green Street and North Houston Road. It was once so overgrown with trees and vegetation that the pond could barely be seen from the street that passes right by it.
The property was owned by the family of Homer J. Walker, who served as mayor of Warner Robins. The city bought the property in 2013 for $75,000 and has spent about $167,000 on creating the 26-acre park. Krag Woodyard, the city’s assistant public works director, said one reason the cost is so low is that city workers have done a lot of the work.
“We’ve had a crew out here just about every day up until about a month and half ago,” he said at the park last week, where he discussed the progress with Mayor Randy Toms and other city officials.
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The project has included clearing out trees and brush and building a paved .66 mile walking track around the pond. A paved parking lot was also included. Still left to be done is the completion of two restrooms, one on each side of the park. Fitness equipment will also be added along the track.
A grand opening is expected in March.
“It’s night and day from what it looked like a few months ago,” Toms said. “A lot of people are coming out here and using the track and walking around. Our whole community is going to benefit from this park.”
As Toms stood on the track talking, Bill Finch walked by. Finch is former girls basketball coach at Northside High School and lives right across the street from the park. He said neighbors had some concerns about what the park might entail but are happy with the outcome.
“It’s much, much better,” he said. “It looks a lot better. It had grown up quite a bit in the last few years. I’m really pleased to see what has taken place.”
He said the neighbors he has spoken with have also liked it.
Some items in the plans are left off for now due to the cost, most notably a boardwalk that would extend out over the pond. Woodyard said that could be done on a smaller scale with a floating dock, then extended if it proves popular.
Originally the plans had included a dog park, splash pad and a playground, but those were left off after meeting with neighbors, said Councilman Clifford Holmes and Councilwoman Carolyn Robbins, who served on a committee to design the park.
They said neighbors have given positive feedback on how the park turned out.
“I think they have seen the results of what it turned out to be, and they are happy now,” Holmes said.
Councilman Mike Davis, one of the early proponents of the park and also a member of the committee, credited the outcome to the city workers.
“They took a vision that we had as a committee, and they made it work,” he said.
Another part of the park’s history is that decades ago it was an automotive race track, with a track running around the pond just like the walking track today. Woodyard said he is interested in preserving some of that history, which would include marking the original finish line of the race track and possibly putting up signs telling the story. The city also left intact the remnants of an old minnow pond made of blocks. The minnows were used as bait to catch fish in the lake.
With recent warm weather, many people have been fishing in the pond. Among those there recently were Brenden Delo, 15, Christian Waszczak, 15, Chris Eagy, 16 and Dakota Thompkins, 20, who all live in the area. They were taking turns going out on the lake in Thompkin’s kayak to fish and had caught three fish.
“I come out here almost every day,” Christian said.
They had been sneaking over before to fish, and although they had the place about to themselves then, they were happy to see it open to the public. The pond is much easier to get to now and they weren’t able to get the kayak in before. They hope the city will stock it with some more fish.
Cedric Shannon was out walking on the track and said he has been coming regularly. He had been walking on sidewalks before.
“I love it,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about the dogs chasing you, and it’s a real nice view. It’s a whole lot safer here.”