A few days later than originally planned, Westside Park in the City of Atlanta officially opened Friday.
The 280-acre park surpasses Piedmont Park’s 185-historical acres. On top of that, the park boasts another key attribute that many other parks can’t claim.
It’s a quarry that now houses the largest emergency supply of water for the City of Atlanta. The reservoir can hold 2.4 billion gallons of water and addresses the emergency water supply issue.
The City originally only had three days worth of emergency water but the new reservoir in the park gives the City 90 days of water according to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Post 3 at-Large Councilman Andre Dickens says that Atlanta is prepared for now and the future.
“This is how you make sure that you develop a city that it can sustain itself in an emergency situation,” Dickens said. “But also do it in a way that makes it accessible and beautiful for leisure and education for its residents. I see a future where kids are able to play out here and get educated about watershed management and about water filtration and cleanliness and all of the plants and everything out here will be a wonderful experience for everyone.”
Addressing the emergency water supply was important for the City and Dickens agreed.
“This is a wonderful opportunity but it was a necessary opportunity,” Dickens said. “When you only have a three-day water supply, you are in jeopardy of not being able to sustain the lives of the citizens in the City of Atlanta. And it can affect economic development as well so this helps us be able to advertise that we’re ready for the future, that we have your safety and that we’re prepared for any sense of emergency so this is wonderful. It fell in our lap through a lot of hard work of a bunch of amazing people for almost two decades. To be able to get this quarry, get the ownership on it and start drilling and bring water to the quarry.”
Bottoms and Dickens were in attendance for the ribbon-cutting ceremony along with a variety of city council members and three parks and rec commissioners were also in attendance.
For Bottoms, her runny nose couldn’t hold her back as she started off with a Tom Joyner morning show reference.
“We’ve heard the saying about a party with a purpose if you’ve ever listened to the Tom Joyner morning show. This is a park with a purpose,” Bottoms said on the stage. “This has been a long time in the making.”
The project was a 15-year endeavor that began with the purchase of the land in 2006 and 10 years later with the development of the land with the Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Watershed as well.
“This park means so much to so many people,” Bottoms said. “It now is the largest park in the City of Atlanta. I have family who live in the Grove Park Community and thankfully they still own the family home and still live there.”
Bottoms even recalled when family would walk through the Quarry years ago and pick crab apples.
The park is housed around the old Bellwood Quarry Convict Camp but will no longer be referred to as the Quarry but the Westside Park Pump station.
“We also know the history of slavery by another name in our city,” Bottoms said.
“Many sites across this city used convict labor and literally worked people to death. Slavey by another name. But now we are here as community. We are here, as I look across the crowd, I see the diverse representation and I see what Atlanta truly represents in who we are as a city.“It is my sincere hope that each time we come into this park, we will remember who we are as a city,” she continued. “That this is a place where all of our families and communities can come together and just be. Thank you to all of our City of Atlanta employees who made this possible.”
One of the best features of the park is the Grand Overlook which looks at the reservoir and the Atlanta Skyline.
Bottoms remarked that many of the employees at the City of Atlanta continued to work when the world shut down due to COVID-19 last year as the Watershed Department and many others continued to keep working. Bottoms said that they kept going so that moments like the park opening could happen.
The park itself contains 11 different locations with Proctor Creek Greenway, Red Trail, Outer Loop, Playground Loop, Blue Loop, Yellow Loop, Non-ADA Compliant, Lawns Loop, Turquoise Loop, Purple Loop and North Rim Trail.
The $44 million initial phase funding was led by the Arthur Blank Family Foundation’s $17.5 million. $15 million came from TSPLOST with another $8 million from the City of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management with another $3 million from the City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation. The last $500,000 came from an Impact Fee.