Watkinsville Mayor Charles Ivie walking in the city's new greenspace.
On a warm and sunny spring day, Watkinsville Mayor Charles Ivie surveys some of the nearly six acres the city has recently acquired. He is excited about the future of the property, located off South Main Street.
“We envision it as a walking park that will have some type of seating along the trails,” Ivie said. “I would like to see it be as a place of quietness.”
Retired Watkinsville physician Dr. Roy Ward sold the property to the city after Ivie approached him and promised the city would retain it as mostly greenspace. “The property has been in the Ward family for probably 80 years,” Ivie explained.
Using funds from its Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax (SPLOST), the city paid Ward $150,000 for the property, far below its commercial value. Tentatively the new park will be called Watkinsville Woods.
“Watkinsville Woods will put a passive recreation space within an easy walk of a large number of Watkinsville residents,” said Councilmember Brian Brodrick, one of two councilmembers leading a citizens’ committee on the project. “It is just a few hundred yards from our largest neighborhood and is adjacent to one of our most historic streets.”
Williams & Associates Land Planners & Engineers are working pro bono for the city on a development plan and have created a preliminary site plan that Brodrick said will be vetted by Watkinsville residents in August.
Ivie hopes the project will be complete by early next year.
“We are not in a big hurry to develop it but we are anxious to complete it,” he said. “We want to get it right the first time. “ The new park is a big deal for the city of a little more than 2,800 residents.
“This was our first cycle ever to have SPLOST funds and it allowed us to think beyond what we normally did,” Brodrick said. “SPLOST has allowed us to improve existing parks and roads and add sidewalks and to consider adding greenspace. As part of our planning process, we identified potential green spaces and park lands we could add to the city and the Watkinsville Woods site was at the top of the list.”
Both Ivie and Brodrick said the property was almost a hidden gem.
“While many people did not realize the land was back there, it includes some of the nicest groves of magnolias, oaks and tulip poplars in the county and will be enjoyed by generations,” Brodrick said.