Forest Park in line to receive federal grant for study

By Ed Brock

Sitting in the shade of trees in a park on Forest Park's Main Street, newcomer to the city Samantha Shaw expresses support for improvements planned for the city's future.

"I think every city should have a big park for the kids," said Shaw who has lived in Forest Park for one week.

A linear park that would link the Atlanta State Farmer's Market on the city's west side with the realigned main gate of Army Fort Gillem on the east side is one item included in the city's planned multi-use transportation project. Now the city is in line for a $200,000 federal grant that would finance a comprehensive study connected to the project.

"That's good news for the city of Forest Park," City Manager Bill Werner said.

Qualifying for the grants is the result of a partnership between the city, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the Atlanta Regional Commission and the county, Werner said.

"And now the federal government," Werner said.

Democrat U.S. Rep. David Scott for Georgia's newly created 13th Congressional District requested the money and in mid-July the House Appropriations Committee approved the request. It will be presented to the House for a vote when they come back in session on Sept. 2 and after that either Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. or Sen. Zel Miller, D-Ga., will be asked to bring it before the Senate, said Scott's spokesman Rob Griner.

"Since it has been reported out favorably it will probably pass the House," Griner said, adding that it might be October or November before the city actually gets the money if it is approved.

"This is a great hurdle to overcome. There's a lot of funding projects that don't get in at all," Griner said in reference to the request passing the Appropriations Committee.

While the ARC had requested $2.5 million for the project, Clayton County's Assistant Director of Economic Development Robin Roberts said this grant would open the door for future funding.

"It's another piece in the puzzle working in the direction of revitalizing that area," Roberts said. "It's the beginning of the process."

Werner said that there are several projects ongoing in the city, including a transportation hub that is part of the ARC's Liveable Centers Initiative, beautification projects along Old Dixie Road, Jonesboro Road and Main Street and the realignment of Fort Gillem's main gate that will move the gate in front of Main Street's termination onto Jonesboro Road.

"All those things are going to change the look and feel of the city," Werner said.

The study will also address traffic issues, such as putting a new traffic light by the exit for the Farmer's Market wholesalers section.

The current bus system should be included in the study, said one of Shaw's companions at the park last week, 21-year-old Charmaine Johnson.

"They only run in certain parts of the area," Johnson said, adding that the fares are also too high. "You shouldn't have to walk two miles just to pay a higher fare."