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Historical society gets nod for memorial garden

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

After years of pleading by the organization, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners has given Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., land for an educational garden.

The land, which sits adjacent to the Stately Oaks Plantation property off Lake Jodeco Road, once housed the Jonesboro Recreation Center. According to the agreement, the garden will be named in memory of Flora Blalock, the woman who donated the land for the recreation center in the 1950s.

Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to enter into a 20-year, lease agreement with Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., in which the county will lease the site to the historic preservation group for $1 a year. The land will be developed to create the Flora Blalock Memorial Garden, according to the agreement.

Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., President Barbara Emert said the property for the garden was donated in the 1950s by Blalock to the Jonesboro Women's Club, for the purpose of building the Jonesboro Recreation Center. Unable to maintain the property, the women's club gave it to the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department, but the county abandoned the building after the creation of the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center, she said.

"When they built the Griswell center, they moved out of that building," Emert said. "It had asbestos, so they couldn't use it. [Several years ago] they were waiting for permits to tear it down, but a tree fell on top of it, so they had to tear it down."

Initially, Emert said it was suggested that Stately Oaks Plantation use the site for extra parking. However, she said the historical society has decided to use the area to plant morning glories, foxgloves, lamb's ear, hollyhock, and other ornamental flowers typical of the Victorian era.

"The Victorians were very into flowers," Emert said. "They wanted them outside, and inside, the house. All the flowers had meaning. If you gave somebody a certain type of flower, it might mean that you really liked them, or it might be an insult."

According to Emert, the historical society would like to start a Junior Gardening Club, in order to educate young people about the significance of the flowers, and to peak local interest in agriculture.

Commissioner Michael Edmondson, who sponsored the resolution, said the garden would provide another attraction for the county, and make use out of a space for which the county had no use.

"It is too small to build on," he said. "We don't have an intended use for it. It is a piece of land that they have an interest in beautifying. The volunteers of Historical Jonesboro have done a lot to show the cultural significance of Clayton County. I'm glad to be able to help them do that."

Emert said that Blalock, a former Jonesboro High School principal who started the first county library and the Jonesboro Women's Club, was actively involved with young people in the community, and that the memorial garden would be a fitting use of the land.

"She was very supportive of Jonesboro and wanted it to prosper. I think that she would be pleased about the fact that there is something additional here to draw tourists to Jonesboro."