Three adjoining lots in South Rome will be transformed into a beautiful park with trails and a pollinator garden by next year if a new project goes as planned.
The South Rome Alliance, along with several community partners, has outlined an ambitious plan to turn three unused parcels bordered by East Main Street, Cave Spring Street and McLin Street, into a picturesque park.
The project’s estimated cost is between $250,000 and $300,000 and it’s expected to be completed by the fall of 2022.
Jake Hager, executive director of the South Rome Alliance, said they’re hoping funding for the project will come from ARPA funds. The American Rescue Plan Act provides direct relief to towns and cities in the U.S. in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m hopeful work will begin around the first part of the year,” Hager said. “We’re hoping to have funding secured in the next month. We’ll start seeing some activity physically happening in March, with a goal of having things formed up by fall of next year.”
Key features of the park will include a parking lot between McLin Street and Cave Spring Street, a lot where vendors can set up, fencing, tables and a pavilion, a pollinator garden, paved and unpaved trail, open green space and a flag plaza with monuments.
One special aspect of the park will be its military plaza. The park is named for former Rome resident Bill Covington, whose family donated one of the parcels to Darlington School. They in turn donated it to the city of Rome. Covington attended Darlington before going off to war in Vietnam. He was killed in action and his body was never recovered.
“As part of honoring his memory, we’ll have a military plaza that would recognize and honor all branches of the military,” Hager said. “We’ll have a Blue Star marker and a Gold Star marker affixed to the site. The Blue Star will memorialize veterans while the Gold Star will memorialize the family members of those who served.”
Another nod to the location’s past is that it was once the home to Anchor Duck Mill, with the company store and cafeteria located on the very corner where Covington Park will be.
“We’re really excited that the park can be a place for neighbors to spend time together,” Hager said. “It can be somewhere passersby can stop and enjoy the outdoors. Someone can take their evening walks there or can use it to enjoy their lunch break.”
The park’s trails will be an approximately 0.15-mile paved loop — with connections to parking lots and the neighborhood on the south side of the park — as well as approximately 0.2 miles of unpaved nature trail.
Bekki Fox with the City of Rome is on the Covington Park committee and said she’s excited for the possibilities the park has to offer the area.
“There is a park in South Rome called Parks Hoke Park and it’s well used,” she said. “But this park will be located in a spot that really sort of borders South Rome and what we call East Rome. So people from both areas will be able to utilize it. It’s right beside a beautiful portion of Silver Creek.”
Fox said she and City Manager Sammy Rich, who’s a big proponent of the project, visited the area and were impressed by how beautiful and peaceful it is. She was also emphatic about the location’s potential as a space for recreation as well as education.
“When you’re standing by the creek you don’t even think you’re in the middle of town,” she said. “What’s unique is that there used to be a factory on this property. There’s so much history in this parcel. And this park will be able to be utilized as an exercise path for people in the neighborhood; it could be a spot for picnics or lunch for staff at the nearby health department; it could be utilized by the Boys and Girls Club and by Anna K Davie Elementary and Darlington schools. It’s just so full of potential.”
Confirmed partners for the project include the City of Rome, the South Rome Alliance, Darlington School, Boys & Girls Clubs, Rome ECO Center, Keep Rome Floyd Beautiful, National Garden Club, Georgia Urban Forestry and the Exchange Club.