WARNER ROBINS -- Even on winter’s coldest day last week, ducks were swimming in Walker’s Pond, while other birds flitted through the brush that circles the pond.
But not all has been completely peaceful at the pond. A city-hired contractor cleared out some of the trees and brush so the pond can be seen from nearby roads, while a storage building and concrete slab already have been removed. That’s the beginnings of the work that soon could turn the pond into the city’s newest park, with a walking path, restrooms and perhaps a pavilion.
The work is continuing at Walker’s Pond while the city works to develop a recreation master plan for all of the other facilities in the county.
City Council members overseeing the effort said they listened to neighbors, who don’t want more active recreational offerings like a splash pad, which the city had been contemplating.
“The thing you see in it is the beauty and the nature,” Councilwoman Carolyn Robbins said.
The pond takes up most of a 26-acre parcel close to Green Street, Watson Boulevard and North Houston Road. It lies in a residential neighborhood roughly midway between Northside High School and Houston Mall.
For the first time in years, the pond is now visible from Green Street, said Councilman Mike Davis, who pointed out that the city’s main objective is to get the site cleaned up.
The city paid $75,000 for the property two years ago, buying it from the Walker family, which has put two members into the mayor’s office. Including the property price, Davis said, the city so far has spent roughly $140,000 to $150,000 on the property and has about that much remaining in a sales tax-supported fund to add parking areas, build the walking path, and add restrooms and benches. There might be enough money for a pavilion.
Davis and other city officials said that would keep the focus on the pond’s natural setting.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” Councilman Clifford Holmes said.
But the same council members are also describing that work as the project’s first phase. They don’t have an agreement on later phases and didn’t want to discuss most specifics of what they’ve considered.
One possibility is a deck or boardwalk over part of the lake, which could be used to show off the pond’s more exotic plants.
Louise McBride, a retired school teacher, said neighbors like the idea of a quiet, beautiful park to match a neighborhood that’s also quiet and picturesque. That means neighbors aren’t looking for basketball courts or playground equipment, but they might be interested in a Georgia Military College classroom or other science classroom.
“I love it over here, I really do,” said McBride, who moved near the park in 1978.
Such a classroom was proposed for another proposed park on city land on Watson Boulevard, across from the former Kmart. City Council members offered a lukewarm reaction to a larger concept at the site that could also include an amphitheater.
Most of the city’s recreation improvements, funded by a special purpose local option sales tax, may get targeted for a new creation complex proposed for a site not far from Walker’s Pond. The city’s recreation master plan will review earlier concepts for ball fields, courts, an archery range and other active recreation events at the site near North Houston and Elberta roads. City Council members have said such a development could bring more tournaments -- and more revenue and tourism -- to the city.
Mayor Randy Toms said he didn’t want the larger master planning process to slow down Walker’s Pond efforts already underway. City leaders are waiting on the recreation plan before proceeding with another smaller park on Horseshow Road that the city has discussed.
Toms said he’s excited to see Walker’s Pond revitalized.
“When I was a kid, it was a happening place,” he said. But the Walker family had swimming pools and other amenities in addition to the pond. Those aren’t likely to be replaced.
City Engineer Walter Gray said he canoed in the pond more than 30 years ago. Now, he has helped oversee work that cleared out debris and trash. The city is now looking to see if it can get state approval to remove non-native plants such as chinaberry from around the pond, and possibly from inside the pond itself. Crews already have removed the old storage building, a large slab, underbrush and fencing around the property.
Toms said he wants to return to the pond he enjoyed as a boy.
“I’m looking forward to the walking trail around it. The cleanup is already looking good. I think it’s just going to add so much on that neighborhood on that side of town,” he said.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.