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Wellston Park: A public-private collaborative partnership success story

A Houston County work crew moves dirt from a site at Wellston Park in Warner Robins that is slated to become a dog park.
A Houston County work crew moves dirt from a site at Wellston Park in Warner Robins that is slated to become a dog park. Wayne Crenshaw

Starting in June 2017, citizens in the Warner Robins area will be entering their first-ever dog park where they will have a 1.5 acre fenced off-leash “playground” for their canine friends where they will not only enjoy hanging out with their “dog buddies,” but will also get some great exercise running and jumping on the installed agility equipment amongst plentiful hardwood trees. Based on their size and breed, they will have a large-dog and small-dog segregated area to enjoy (leashes optional). All the while, their family can enjoy benches and picnic tables, while they hang out with their canine family members.

The dog park will be inside the new Wellston Park which is conveniently located at 110 Olympia Drive (off of Watson Boulevard across from the @Home store). Events are already being planned at the dog park for the public.

Other amenities for the 37-acre Wellston Park, will initially include a 3-acre open lawn area and gathering gazebo, 1.5 mile paved walking trail that runs along the perimeter of the park, and the “Coleman Cottage” which is one of the oldest houses in the Warner Robins area dating back to 1925 (est). It will be used as office space for a future parks director, and meeting space for the public. Plans are in-work to host a new citywide festival in Fall 2018.

The idea of Wellston Park was birthed years ago by two icons in the community, Charlie MCGlamry and Ed Bayer and their families, who donated the 37-acres to the city of Warner Robins in 1997, and presented a master plan to build a community park. That plan included at the time, a dog park, multiple pavilions, trails and amphitheater.

McGlamry, a legendary developer in the area, and the Bayer family who founded and continue to operate Warner Robins Building Supply, have a great history of community involvement. Bayer, his son Mark, and McGlamry did construction projects together early on, and continued a friendship over the years. Upon Ed’s passing, his children, Mark, Cheryl (my wife), and Christine along with Charlie and his family decided to donate the remaining land in 1997 (where Mark built Wellston Ridge Apartments in the 1980s) to the city for a future parks project. The value of the land was close to $1 million.

I approached the then newly-elected Mayor Randy Toms on July 3, 2014 with the idea of resurrecting a 17-year-old passive park project. A subsequent Wellston Trees and Greens “Wellston Park” presentation was given to mayor and Ciity Council on September 15, 2014. A third “Community Partnership” presentation (requesting $154,000) was given to mayor and council, along with other community leaders, interested engaged volunteers, and the media on January 27, 2016 at the Flint Energies Membership Building. It was then agreed that the project needed official approval. On March 7, 2016, a resolution was passed to begin funding Wellston Park with $100,000 from unobligated funds even though it was mentioned that more funding would be made available when needed to make this long-awaited project happen.

Once approval was given, Wellston Trees and Greens and its army of volunteers, led by Dave McMahan, jumped into action engaging community-minded businesses like Warner Robins Building Supply, McGlamry Properties, Ocmulgee, Inc., JMA Architecture, DM Facilities Consultants, Burpee-Scott Funeral Home (construction crew) and Upshaw General Contracting & Roofing. Combined, they gave their people, talents, and in-kind professional services totaling into hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings to the city of Warner Robins.

Many other volunteer organizations like Boy Scout Troop 566, Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church Youth Group, and Keep Warner Robins Beautiful volunteers made this a personal labor of love for all involved. In addition, Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker made an incredible contribution to the project by engaging its Public Works crews in weeks-long tree clearing and excavation work of the entire park.

Starting March 1, with authorization from the Secretary of the Air Force and Georgia National Guard Adjutant General, the 116th Air Control Wing (JSTARS) organization at Robins Air Force Base will be involved using Wellston Park for an authorized training exercise with its civil engineering personnel and equipment working on the trail.

All this, along with the engaging and cooperative spirit of the various departments with the city of Warner Robins has truly proven that, to quote Mayor Toms’ 2013 campaign slogan, “Together We Can Do Better” makes great projects like this a possibility for our community.

If you or your organization would like more information, or be involved with this exciting community project please contact Wellston Trees and Greens via its Facebook page or Keep Warner Robins Beautiful at 478-929-7258.

Wellston Trees and Greens, is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to advocate, educate and engage in the development of natural resources for passive parks, green spaces and trails in the Warner Robins area.

Jim Taylor is the Business Development & Marketing Manager for Warner Robins Building Supply.