celebrates 50 years of recreation

FOREST PARK — In 1963, the antebellum plantation opened at Stone Mountain Park, ground was broken for a visitors center at Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park and Forest Park kicked off its Parks and Recreation Department.

This Saturday, the city celebrates 50 years of providing leisure services to its residents, from the cradle to the grave. The celebration will be held at Starr Park, behind the recreation building, from 4 to 9 p.m. Festivities include live entertainment, food vendors and arts and crafts.

Elaine Corley is director of recreation and leisure services. One might say she came along with the department as she marks her 50th year as a Forest Park employee this year. She had already spent five years at the parks and recreation department in Griffin.

“We’re really looking forward to the celebration of 50 years of serving the citizens of Forest Park,” said Corley.

To honor that legacy, the activities will pay tribute to the “good ole days,” she said.

“We’re going old-fashioned,” said Corley Tuesday, taking a quick break from planning meetings for Saturday. “We’re having three-legged races, 50-yard dash, horseshoe toss, corn shucking and watermelon eating contest.”

There will be a DJ playing music from each of the five decades and a karaoke machine.

“We want everyone to come out and help us celebrate,” she said. “This is just a wonderful thing for the city.”

City Manager Frank Brandon has lived in Forest Park for 40 years and has seen the department evolve from simple offerings to include a pool, youth camps, wellness programs and classes catering to all interests.

He said he is proud of the department.

“I don’t believe anyone in Clayton County can match Starr Park,” he said. “If you really look at it, it’s a wonderful park.”

Brandon said parks and recreations offers something for everyone, no matter the age.

“The senior center is just fantastic, a wonderful addition,” he said. “When our grandkids come to stay with us, we always take them to the children’s playground.”

Recreation officials keep activities going year-round at Starr Park, from car and bike shows to sporting and swimming events to movies in the park to Halloween carnivals and autumn festivals, Veterans Day commemoration and Christmas decorations.

“The park is just a big plus for the city,” said Brandon. “And the Christmas lights, oh my goodness, that is something to behold.”

Corley said when she came to Forest Park, Starr Park was “swamp land with open ditches.”

“I’ve been fortunate enough to see it develop over the years,” she said. “I drew up the plans on a yellow tablet and funded it with grants from the state in $10,000 increments every year. I’ve had a good time and I’m getting ready for Saturday.”