Written by Carmen Abernathy
On any given day year-round, East Cobb Park is bustling with activity – children climbing on the playground, dog walkers circling the paths, teenagers joining a pickup soccer game, or families enjoying a picnic.
Neighbors greet each other as they meet for a concert held at the outdoor stage. This park has become a hub in our community.
This gathering place is the grass-roots effort of a volunteer nonprofit organization known as the Friends for the East Cobb Park. It all began in 1998 with a group of civic-minded individuals who wanted to create a green space in East Cobb. With a goal to raise funds to purchase an appropriate property, the group’s plan was to then deed that property to the county that would, in turn, maintain the park. These individuals created a nonprofit organization, and a public-private partnership was formed between the county and this new entity.
During the next few years, a location was chosen, funds were raised, and professional park designs were drawn. Much of the land was the family homestead of Elbert Bowles, located on Highway 120 between Old Canton and Providence Roads. Once the nonprofit raised more than $1 million to cover land costs and some development, Cobb County contributed $1 million toward further development. Initial construction began in 2002, and the park was officially dedicated on June 28, 2003.
East Cobb Park is now a 20.3-acre park with grass fields, walking trails, stream overlooks, two playgrounds, picnic pavilions, an outdoor classroom, and an outdoor stage. The park is open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Cobb County Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs Department estimates that between 500-700 people of all ages visit the park on a nice day, which is quite a testament to the vision of those who got the ball rolling. Still a vibrant organization, Friends for the East Cobb Park actively supports facilities and programs, as well as develops park enhancements. The group’s 2015 President Jodie Braner is quick to point out that Cobb County maintains the grounds, but the nonprofit group continues to raise funds and oversee improvements.
“The county workers are responsible for upkeep, such as cutting the grass and planting new shrubs and trees,” says Braner. “But it is up to us to purchase those shrubs and trees. We also manage and fund projects, such as the new steps from the lower field to the parking lot. Last year’s president, Amber Harris, was instrumental in seeing through that project’s completion.”
Committee meetings take place monthly or bimonthly depending on the level of activity at the time, according to Braner. General board meetings are held monthly for the entire organization to openly discuss new ideas and projects. Braner says a new project under discussion is the addition of bench swings for adults. “We all like to swing,” comments Braner. “It’s not just for children.”
For those interested in becoming more involved with the park or giving a lasting gift in someone’s name, such as a personalized walkway cobblestone, visit eastcobbpark.org or facebook.com/FriendsfortheEastCobbPark for more information. In looking at the website, you just may find a familiar name among the list of volunteer officers, committee chairs, past presidents, and advisory board members.
And of course, more volunteers are always needed. Underlying it all is a dedication to make East Cobb Park the best it can be. “We start our meetings with ‘wouldn’t it be great if … or what else can we do,’” says Braner. “We are neighbors working toward a better community.”