Built Environments #12: Sidewalks and Playscapes- Playgrounds and Parks in the Old Fourth Ward

The Old Fourth Ward has a good amount of space for people to engage in play or exercise or just relax outside. The spaces are used in many different ways either by design or lack thereof. This is a look at the playgrounds and parks (both intentional and unintentional) in the Old Fourth Ward. At some point you’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned the O4W skate park or the Historic Fourth Park. I’ll devote a post to them at a later date. For now, let’s have a look at some lesser publicized places to play in the Old Fourth Ward. The only thing they have in common for sure is the need for better lighting.IMG_20130625_195818This park is dedicated to community activist Marie Cower, a champion of the people in the Old Fourth Ward who died of cancer in 2009. It’s on the corner of Auburn Avenue NE and Randolph Street NE. The park is tiny and lovely. It has benches, small pieces of art (hand-painted pots), flowering plants, and fruit trees. It’s a great space for a picnic.

IMG_20130608_091602This is a Boulevard-Angier Park on Boulevard NE. The shading is so heavy that even in the full light of day it seems a little too dark. This park has benches, lacks grassy ground cover, and often has people in it (none of whom seem to be enjoying themselves very much). It is directly across the street from a neighborhood safety center (that’s code for a police precinct). There are a lot of children in the surrounding neighborhood, but this park doesn’t appear to be enticing them for a variety of reasons.

The MLK Jr. Natatorium was an excellent swim facility. (I can’t really comment on it’s recent usage, as I haven’t swam there is about fifteen years, but I had every intention on using it this summer.) Unfortunately, due to structural issues like the inability to withstand really strong winds or an earthquake, it’s closed. It would be excellent if the structural issues could be resolved and Atlanta’s oldest natatorium reopened to the public. However, it’s much wiser to close the building lest it be blown over. The nearest natatorium relatively-available to the public is at MLK Jr. Middle School.

IMG_20130625_194022Selena S. Butler park has good days and it has bad days. Sometimes those days are the exact same day. It’s right next to Ashley Auburn Pointe apartments, the former site of the Grady Homes Housing complex. The park users were diverse in age, but it was racially homogeneous. There are several chess tables out front, at that time none of them were being used. There was also an unused (evident from the grass sprouting in the sand) bocce ball court.
IMG_20130625_194106The soccer field was being used by a men’s soccer league. The ages ranged from early teens to adulthood.
IMG_20130625_194137The tennis courts, basketball courts, and playground were all being used. There is plenty of shading and there also benches available. Overall, this park is very nice and appears to be utilized by the community.

The street it’s on is poorly lit, the sidewalk is ragged, and as I walked I passed several people who seemed strung out, a man holding a wad of cash photographing two affectionate young women with his cellphone, and a tiny, lovely park that looked in need of maintenance. lighting, and someone to pick up litter. 

IMG_20130615_193724This space next to the abandoned Howard school used to be enclosed by a fence. When the fence was moved closer to the building a couple of weeks ago this grassy lawn became available. The day after this space was opened there were children playing football in it.

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