COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL– Trees Columbus and the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department have big plans for Theo McGee Park, located at 1140 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Columbus. The two entities have formed a partnership to transform the park into a place that better meets community needs.

On Thursday, they held a press conference at the park to discuss their plans.

“One of the new things that we’d like to have here in this park is a walking trail so that the neighbors can come here and walk in the park,” said Holli Browder, director of the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department. “… But in addition to that walking trail, we’re looking at using the idea of a multi-use field. So, you can see our field down there currently has a fence on it. The fence would come out and it would become multiuse.”

Holli Browder, director of the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department, speaks at the podium. Behind her is Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson.

Browder said the field could be used for various sports such as soccer, baseball, lacrosse and others. Additionally, she said the basketball court will be renewed and that a space will be created for people to congregate for events such as birthday parties. Browder said the playground will be removed or replaced and that there will be a new bathroom and parking area.

“In addition to these amenities, we’re of course going to be looking to improve the drainage in the park and of course improve the tree canopy as the mayor spoke earlier, as well as other beautification opportunities that will allow this park to really transform,” she said.

Trees Columbus Executive Director Dorothy McDaniel also said there are plans for a splashpad.

McDaniel said the project will require $75,000 from the community and that Georgia Power has already committed $10,000.

“Our goal is that through some private donations, we’ll be able to hit 35 through private donations,” she said. “… So what will happen first with those donations is we’re going to start working on the green space. We’re going to work on creating more shade.”

In an interview, McDaniel said Trees Columbus and the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department aim to raise 40,000 from corporate sponsors. She said all money raised through the crowdfunding campaign would be used on the park.

Browder said the newly designed park will be better looking. Additional benefits from the park, she said, are that it will provide a safe place for physical activity and elevate property values in the surrounding area.

“At Theo McGee, we’re working to build a space where the community can come together safely and provide a safe place for kids to play where we can play where we can create intergenerational opportunities so that people of all ages – kids, adults, seniors – can benefit from using the park simultaneously, that they can all come here at the same time together and benefit from using the park,” she said.

Trees Columbus and the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department asked local citizens how they wanted the park to be improved, McDaniel said. Many people said the park needed more shade.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson speaks at the podium.

“We heard things like it would be good to have activities for kids who have aged out of the playground but they don’t necessarily play basketball,” she said. “There’s nowhere to walk. We heard that over and over again. If a mom has a younger child and wants to push a stroller, there’s nowhere to walk in the park. So an interior walking trail was huge.”

“Let me just say that it is really exciting to be back at Theo McGee Park, mainly because this is an area that really symbolizes what makes Columbus unique and Columbus so great,” said Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson. “That is the partnerships that are created – the ideas that germinate not in government but start somewhere in a private entity, and then they come to governments.”

Sally Bradley, a board member with Trees Columbus, explained the mission of Trees Columbus.

“The Trees Columbus mission is to plant, preserve and protect trees,” she said. “And our goal is for people to enjoy trees and to spend time under a healthy tree canopy. When we connect people with nature and green spaces, it makes our community stronger, healthier, safer and happier.”