Photo by Johnny Jackson
Volunteers Lewis Armstrong and Becky Blankenship take a break during the Saturday cleanup at Veterans Memorial Park in Riverdale.
RIVERDALE — Firefighter Lawrence Ellis joined the others picking up around the quarter-acre Veterans Memorial Park.
Members of Riverdale Fire Services trimmed tree branches and bushes in the green oasis downtown Saturday. It was dedicated as Banks Park in 1989 and renamed in 1995 but has shown its age in recent years.
Riverdale Fire Chief Nish Willis thought a park makeover was due.
“I walked over to Walgreens one day and noticed how dingy and dark it was,” said Willis.
The plan was to restore the park as a monument to servicemen and women. The space, she said, would honor people like her father, grandfather, father-in-law, uncle and a sister and brother, who all served in the military.
Willis, too, served in the Air Force.
Army National Guard veteran Ronald Stubbs was on hand to help out with the April 10-13 beautification project.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Stubbs, 66.
He is one of the roughly 15,000 residents who pass by the park regularly in the 4.5-square-mile city. He retired as a sergeant first class from the Guard in 2006. His service spans three generations with deployments in the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Fire Lt. Warren Long is a former Marine, who volunteered in the cleanup.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Long said. “It gives a lot of respect to those who fought and died for our country.”
More than 200 hours went into the park restoration with help from the fire department, the Riverdale Police Department, the Riverdale 911 Dispatch Center and Home Depot.
Willis said Home Depot volunteered to maintain the flowers and provide mulch each spring and fall at the park.
Fire Lt. Ronald Williamson said the event helped further involve the department in the community as individuals from its two fire stations and dispatch center helped prep the flower beds and clean the sidewalks and benches.
Jennifer Johnson is the city’s 911 operations supervisor.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Johnson said. “Having everybody come together and help and brighten up the city is a great thing.”
Johnson pointed out that the occasion also offered a tie into National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week which began Sunday.
Interim city manager Karl Kelley said such events should be held more often.
“I think this is a great thing,” Kelley said. “This is something that needs to be done throughout our community.”
Kelley said the city plans to celebrate the park’s 25th anniversary Oct. 2, 2014. The event will also serve as a city employee appreciation picnic.