Houston & Peach

Bill Hafley Park in Perry bursting with lessons for young and old

One of Perry’s best kept secrets offers an educational opportunity for people of all ages at no cost.

When Bill Hafley Park in Perry got a huge face-lift in 2013, Perry gained a teaching tool benefiting both adults and students. The park, located at 1438 Houston Lake Drive in Perry, was originally part of a land swap between the Houston County Board of Education and the City of Perry, said Cyndi Houser, executive secretary for the city of Perry, and it later became a recycling center.

When the city went to curbside pickup, the park was no longer needed as a recycling center, and the big recycling wagons were taken away.

Eventually, the park became an eyesore, said Teddie Berry, program assistant for horticulture for the Houston County Extension office.

“It had been long neglected,” she said. “After the recycle bins were taken away ... (it) probably sat there a year.”

In June 2013, a memo of understanding was drawn up between the Extension Office of Houston County, the Master Gardeners of Central Georgia and the city of Perry, outlining the responsibilities of all three entities, Berry said, and plans were made to give the park some much-needed attention. The city, Berry said, gave the extension office full reign on how to design the park, and a committee was formed to decide how to develop it. They decided to make it a teaching garden, where people could come and learn but could also just enjoy the gardens.

“Anything that master gardeners do ... (it) has to have an educational component to it,” Berry said, adding that once the committee brainstormed on ideas, Janice Williams, a master gardener in Perry, laid out the landscaping plans.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Williams said, adding that the gardens are really pretty in the fall. “We have high hopes for it. ... I think it will be a great teaching garden.”

Inside the park there is a children’s garden that includes a circular pizza garden divided into “slices” with a variety of items that could be used on pizza, Berry said. Oregano, tomatoes, garlic, onions and bell peppers can be found in this area. There is also a tire tower, a structure made out of old, big tractor tires that are painted bright colors and planted with plants that are resilient. The tower can be walked on as well as climbed on. There is also a concrete dinosaur and a bench under a crape myrtle tree so that parents can sit nearby and watch their children.

“The entire border of this area is planted with unusual things ... sunflowers, brussel sprouts, carrots ... things the kids can touch,” Berry said.

Other gardens included in the park are the pollinator garden, four vegetable gardens, a native plant garden, a Georgia Gold Medal Plant Winners garden, a rock garden, an herb garden, a shade garden and an enabling garden, which is a boxed bed on stilts for easy access for people in wheelchairs. There are also three different kinds of compost bins, Berry said, to help keep the park’s namesake’s dream of recycling alive.

Bill Hafley, Houser said, was a volunteer who was into beautification, composting and recycling, and he eventually became a part-time employee for city of Perry. The park was named after him when he retired.

The park is open to the public from sunrise to sunset, Berry said.

“We want people to come; we want them to learn,” she said.