Park Pride is all about partnerships and appreciates opportunities to work with organizations that have never engaged in our programs. Such was the case this fall when we got a call from Bennett Thrasher looking for a volunteer opportunity for their annual service project. The “8th largest CPA firm in Atlanta and 100th in the US”, Bennett Thrasher is committed through the Bennett Thrasher Foundation to devoting “considerable time and resources towards making the Greater Atlanta Metropolitan Community a better place”.
Wanting to engage over 150 associates in a meaningful volunteer service project is no small task but when passion and dedication lead the way, anything is possible!
Always working from the ground up, Park Pride reached out to the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy to see what project opportunities might be available within Atlanta Memorial Park. The recently formed Conservancy brought together the stakeholders of Atlanta Memorial Park, Bobby Jones Golf Course and the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center to create a regional park (3rd largest in Atlanta!) and collaborative vision for protecting and improving the historical greenspace. With the priority goal of highlighting and improving the existing trail system in the park, Bennett Thrasher agreed to a significant restoration project that beautified and enhanced a main trail-head area off of Howell Mill Road.
Following months of communication, site visits and the coordination of a tremendous amount of logistics, the workday had arrived! Gathered in the shade of a mature oak on a chilly morning, coffee was clutched tightly as introductions were made, projects were assigned, and teams leaders prepped for the kick-off that can only be described as organized chaos. Abuzz and ready to warm up, volunteers dove right into their various projects.
The primary team of 80 volunteers cleared a jungle of invasive plants along Howell Mill Rd. opening up lines of sight into the park and making room for a restoration planting of a variety of native understory trees, shrubs and ground cover plants that will not only beautify the park, but also promote a wider species diversity of pollinating birds, butterflies and bees.
Nearby, another team of 40 associates worked along the park boundary planting a natural screen to delineate the park and highlight the trailhead from the adjacent private property.
Taking advantage of the peaceful views along Peachtree Creek which flows directly through the park, a smaller team of 20 volunteers built and installed 4 cedar benches that look up and down the stream offering parks users a chance to relax or catch their breath after a jog around the park! Making sure to protect the existing trees, motivated volunteers pulled, chopped, and cut away at creeping and invasive vines that had made their way up around the trunks and canopy of several mid-story trees.
Told at the beginning of the project to take mental pictures of the park before getting started, volunteers were shocked to see the amount of progress they made in such a short period of time. The folks who thought the wall of invasives looked impenetrable were blown away when they could start seeing their fellow volunteers on the opposite side of the project site. The volunteers focusing on the screen planting thought there was no way they could dig that many holes in order to get all those plants in the ground. The Bennett Thrasher team worked diligently, effectively and with the utmost attention to detail from start to finish resulting in an end product that looked as good as a professional installation. Working together, shoulder to shoulder and side by side with community members, they accomplished exactly what they set out to do, to transform and highlight the entrance into the park.
All in all, in 4 hours and 150 volunteers:
- cleared over 20,000 square feet of invasive plants,
- planted 78 trees, 195 shrubs and groundcover plantings,
- used 5 cubic yards of soil amendment,
- spread 60 bales of pine straw,
- built 4 benches, and
- gathered 6 bags of trash from throughout the project area.
Leaving the project, volunteers were exhausted, dirty, and proud of what they accomplished by volunteering with Park Pride. Thank you, Bennett Thrasher, for your commitment to parks and greenspace!