Recent Travels: Atlanta and Rodney Cook Sr. Park in Historic Vine City
Updated: Apr 29, 2022
April 25, 2022 - By Charlie McCabe
April marked a return to travel for me, for both work and fun, and one of my first stops was Atlanta to visit a number of parks that have been under construction (or expansion) since I last visited in October 2018. I'll cover the Beltline and Piedmont Park in a separate post shortly, but I wanted to spend some time in the new (as of November 2021) Rodney Cook Sr. Park in Historic Vine City. This park was the site of devastating flooding that resulted in many damaged homes that the city purchased and removed. A park was long promised, and the City partnered with the Trust for Public Land to build one that combined stormwater and flood control, along with more traditional park amenities, in a neighborhood that hasn't seen a lot of public investment in recent years. Construction was extensive beginning in the spring of 2017 and wrapping up this past fall. The park is very close to Downtown Atlanta— the Falcons football stadium towers in the background as you face southwest in the park.
The idea of parks as both traditional recreation and gathering spaces paired with green infrastructure isn't a new idea; in fact, this is the third such park in Atlanta. The first is Historic Fourth Ward Park in Eastside Atlanta which, along with the Atlanta BeltLine, has sparked a sustained building boom. The second park is Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park, opened in November 2019. While only a few acres, this park is capable of capturing and storing 3.5 million gallons of rainwater. All three parks were built by public-nonprofit partnerships, with the Trust for Public Land partnering with the City of Atlanta for Historic Fourth Ward Park and Rodney Cook Sr. Park, and Park Pride partnering with the Conservation Fund and the City of Atlanta for Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park.
I visited on a quiet early April Friday morning, so there were just a handful of users, mostly walking the trails and using the playground, along with an Atlanta Department of Parks & Recreation staff member power washing the picnic shelter area. Thanks to recent rains, the elaborate stormwater system was active, complete with waterfalls and streams, and the sound of flowing water added some pleasant background noise to the park.
It will be interesting to see how this park and the surrounding Vine City evolve. Local philanthropic groups have been working to increase affordable housing and opportunity to this area of Atlanta, and given that its close to downtown as well as Atlanta University Center, it's being watched closely. Still, its good to see public and nonprofit investment in parks and critical green infrastructure.
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My entire parks and open space series is available here.