NEWS: Groundbreaking, Dedication Ceremony Held for New Park in English Avenue

On Thursday, August 23, Park Pride and The Conservation Fund, together with Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, the City of Atlanta, and representatives from the English Avenue community, held a groundbreaking ceremony for the long-anticipated English Avenue greenspace formerly known as Boone Park West (located at Joseph E. Boone Boulevard and Oliver Street).

City of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms presided over the dedication ceremony where she, along with Atlanta City Councilmember Ivory Lee Young, Jr. and Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Amy Phuong, revealed the park’s official new name—the Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park.

Pictured: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

English Avenue, situated within the Proctor Creek Watershed, has long suffered from sewer overflows related to stormwater runoff, economic disinvestment, social and educational challenges and lack of greenspace. Since 2009, Park Pride and The Conservation Fund have worked collaboratively with English Avenue neighbors and stakeholders to transform neglected spaces into vibrant public parks that benefit the community, the environment, and the economy.

Through an eight-month, community-directed process facilitated by Park Pride, a park master plan was created with a community steering committee and the input of hundreds of area residents.

Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park is the third in a series of parks proposed in the Proctor Creek North Avenue Green Infrastructure Vision (Park Pride, 2010) to address stormwater runoff. The park is expected to help manage up to 3.5 million gallons of stormwater per year by capturing runoff from adjacent streets and routing the water into a series of rain gardens, stormwater swales, and underground chambers. These features will clean and detain the stormwater, helping to mitigate combined sewer overflow events and reduce local flooding.

Additionally, once the construction of the park is complete, Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park will serve as a valuable amenity to the community, providing residents of English Avenue with a place to relax, exercise, play with their families, and meet their neighbors. The park will also restore natural habitat and increase the health of the neighborhood’s biodiversity.

However, the significance of Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park goes beyond the physical improvements to infrastructure and the quality of life benefits provided by a park as it preserves the legacy of English Avenue resident, Kathryn Johnston, in perpetuity.

On November 21, 2006, Johnston, a 92-year-old grandmother, was tragically killed by members of the Atlanta Police Department who executed an illegal “no-knock warrant” to her home on Neal Street, just one block away from the park that now bears her name. Johnston’s sacrifice, which resulted in the repeal of a law that allowed for the arrest of any citizen without “probable cause,” will be memorialized within Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park and will serve as a constant reminder of the ongoing efforts to ensure that Atlantans not only remember her contributions to her community, but continue to work towards the prevention of future tragedies together.

“It is my esteemed honor to commemorate the life and legacy of Kathryn Johnston,” stated Atlanta City Council Member and Westside Future Fund board member Ivory Lee Young, Jr., “a 92-year-old resident of this community tragically killed in the privacy of her home defending herself against a few law enforcement officers sworn to protect and serve but instead took her life. This tragedy never should have happened and should never be forgotten. This tragedy forced needed reforms within the Atlanta Police Department. Eliminating the Disorderly Conduct 6 (DC6) code section, revising procedures for obtaining warrants, and the formation of the Atlanta Citizens Review Board were a few of the reforms. The dedication of this park memorializes Kathryn Johnston who made an indelible mark on this community and this city.”

Pictured: Atlanta City Councilmember Ivory Lee Young, Jr.

Click here to read Park Pride’s full press release from the event. 

Media coverage from the event: