By Joel Hall
Clayton County District 2 Commissioner Gail Hambrick will unveil the district's first community garden today, during Flat Shoals Park Football Spirit Night, taking place at 6:30 p.m., at the park.
The event will serve as the official kick-off of the park's football league season, and will also highlight $200,000 in improvements, which have taken place at the park over the past year.
Flat Shoals Park Athletic Coordinator Don Shockley said this year will be the second year in a row the park has hosted a Football Spirit Night. He said, this year, the park will have 13 teams composed of children between the ages of four and 14, and that the spirit night will give them a chance to shine.
"It's like opening-day ceremonies," Shockley said. "It gets the whole community involved with the season ... It introduces all the teams to the community. There's a lot of competitiveness between all the teams, but this is one day where we are just one team.
"Right now, everybody is undefeated," Shockley continued. "It's just a nice day for everybody."
Within the past year, according to Shockley, grants obtained through the efforts of Hambrick have allowed for the construction of two new picnic pavilions, new rest rooms near the park's front entrance, and a batting cage, as well as the renovation of the park's office into a community center.
He said improvements scheduled in the near future include new fencing around the park, concession stands, a playground, new bleachers, and renovated tennis courts.
Shockley said those who have not come to the park in a while will see a visible difference during Football Spirit Night. "It's a tremendous uplift," Shockley said. "In the past, a lot of people in the community thought the park was dying. The fences were old, there wasn't anything changed in several years, and now the park is full," he said.
"The football teams are full, the baseball teams are full. You can tell there is a different atmosphere in the community."
Hambrick said the community garden will be identical to one recently established in Rex, at the Carl Rhodenizer Recreation Center. She said the garden is part of the county's community health initiatives.
"The one thing I wanted to do is highlight the renovations at the park, and at the same time, push good health," she said. The park will "bring the community together and show off some of the new things we are doing at Flat Shoals Park," she said. "If this is popular, we might try to find space for a second garden."
Hambrick said the garden is approximately half the size of a basketball court, and has nine planting rows. Each will be assigned to a different community group. She said citizens in those groups will be able to plant vegetables and herbs, and reap the benefits when their crops are ready to harvest.
"We are going to try to let new people do it every year," she said. She added that she is happy about the park's improvements and said she believes the renovations will improve the quality of life in the area.
"I think people have a new sense of pride," she said.
Flat Shoals Park is located at 1915 Flat Shoals Road, in Riverdale.