Photo by Johnny Jackson
This unfinished development is expected to be the future home of a ball park complex near downtown Lovejoy.
LOVEJOY — Imagine a place where people can go and catch a game of baseball, get a gourmet meal made from community-grown vegetables and take a mile-long hike through the park.
That is the concept Fayetteville residents Linda and David Clark hope will be realized through their multi-faceted HOPE Park project in Lovejoy.
In 2012, the couple founded Southern Crescent Sports Foundation Inc. under which they hope to get the project off the ground.
HOPE Park sits on 26 acres — with infrastructure reminisce of a failed subdivision — they bought at the corner of East Lovejoy and Hastings Bridge roads near the Henry-Clayton county line. It is named for the organization’s mission of “Helping Other People Excel.”
David Clark is the foundation’s president and a leader in the HOPE Park project.
“Our vision for HOPE Park is to create a multi-faceted destination facility,” he said.
The park’s main attraction will be Miracle Field and an all-accessible playground with outdoor exercise equipment. He said both venues are designed to enable people with special needs to interact and play with others in a safe environment.
“The revenue generator to support our programs will be producing baseball and softball tournaments,” he said. “The tournaments and local leagues will provide workforce development opportunities in food service, maintenance, landscaping, event planning, sports medicine, marketing and many other opportunities.”
Clark said that his organization plans on partnering with Henry County Schools and students from the district’s Academy for Advanced Studies to develop a plan for fall or winter planting and crop rotation.
“We will also provide the space and resources for them to utilize if they have specific projects they would like to undertake — specialty crops, high value crops and heavy production crops are possibilities,” he said. “In the future, they will develop programs to keep our concession stands stocked with fresh produce.”
The foundation also plans to tap into students’ talents in graphic design, marketing, health care science, information technology, logistics and computer programming to help with the park’s operations.
Clark envisions being able to offer work-play opportunities to people, young and old, who want to participate in the park’s league tournaments and other activities. He said they would be able to gain experience and job skills as they pursue ways to pay for their recreational activities.
“In conjunction with our workforce development programs, we will present life skills training,” he said. “We have talked with First National Bank of Griffin and they are on board to educate participants on credit. What it is, how it works, the advantages and disadvantages and what the true costs are when you have bad credit.”
The HOPE Park master plan is to connect the complex to the existing Mayor’s Park next door, which has city officials excited. Clark said he has gotten the support of residents in and around Lovejoy.
“As far as monetary support, it has been a slow process,” he said. “We are still in the stage of building our credibility. No one wants to dump money into a project without a track record and some level of success.”
Clark said the foundation has hired a professional grant writer to pursue funds for the project. He said the organization also continues to plan fundraising events.
Find the latest charity event at www.ourhopepark.com.