By Jamie Dickson
MACON – Tattnall Square Park was once considered by many to be an undesirable place to spend time outdoors, but thanks to the efforts of Friends of Tattnall Square Park (FoTSP), a community group led by Dr. Andrew Silver, the park has undergone major – and well-deserved – restoration.
Dr. Silver, professor of English at Mercer and chairman of FoTSP, co-founded the group in 2011. Since then, it has grown to 11 board members with a following of more than 1,400 people on the group's Facebook page. The organization alone has raised more than $660,000, and more than $2 million has been raised through public-private partnerships.
The group has planted more than 300 trees, installed many student-designed elements – including a rain garden, trash receptacles, a playground seating wall and plaza – and added gateway entrances, sidewalks and an outdoor stage and festival space. "We've worked with students, landscape architects, arborists and gardeners to make this park a standout park," Dr. Silver said.
FoTSP is now preparing to install a fountain modeled after one that once served as the centerpiece of the park. A brick plaza will surround this homage to the original fountain, which stopped working during the Great Depression and was removed in the late 1960s. "We don't just want to have concrete around that plaza. We want to make it dazzling," Dr. Silver said.
The group is currently selling named bricks that will surround the new fountain for $100 each. To purchase a brick, visit http://friendsoftattnall.org/donations/.
Dr. Ron Lemon, a chiropractor in Macon, serves on the FoSTP board. He became involved with the group when his kids were students at Alexander II Magnet School, which sits next to the park across College Street. Dr. Lemon said Macon is fortunate to have the park. "Tattnall Square Park has been a very important component of the revitalization of this historic section of Macon," he said. "Parks help breathe life back into the urban landscape."
Dr. Silver credits the park's recent transformation to not only FoTSP but also the partnerships the group has made with organizations such as Mercer, Macon-Bibb County, the Knight Foundation, the College Hill Alliance and the Community Foundation of Central Georgia.
"There is no greater supporter of what Friends of Tattnall Square Park has done than (Mercer) President (William D.) Underwood," Dr. Silver said. "And it's just enormously important to all of us that we have his support in what we do out here."
Mercer and the park have a symbiotic relationship. Several professors are encouraging their students to get involved. Sarah Reid, a senior criminal justice major, is president of Mercer's student chapter of FoTSP. She and her classmates wrote a Knight Neighborhood Challenge Grant in Dr. Silver's First-Year Seminar course and used the funds from the grant to plant flowers and build a low-lying stone wall for alternative seating.
Dr. Jennifer Look, assistant professor of chemistry at Mercer, is the treasurer and secretary of FoTSP. She encourages her students to use the park as a laboratory. "The park fits in very well with the 'Research that Reaches Out' emphasis that Mercer has recently adopted as part of its Quality Enhancement Plan," Dr. Look said.
Mercer's student chapter of FoTSP hosts small events for Mercerians and community members alike. Reid said she enjoys seeing students and community members appreciate the green space. "We've had so many first-time park-goers come to our events and say that they will be back in the future, and that is awesome to me because I want everyone to enjoy the park like I enjoy the park," she said.