Historic Fourth Ward Park

The Historic Fourth Ward Park is a 17-acre park established on the former Ponce de Leon amusement park site in Atlanta, GA. Located south of Ponce City Market and west of the BeltLine Eastside Trail in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, the park showcases a fascinating contrast between cutting-edge architecture and significant historical sites, like the boyhood home of Martin Luther King Jr.

History of the Park 

Clear Creek’s proximity to the Old Fourth Ward in Atlanta has long made that community vulnerable to floods. According to a $40 million plan in the early 1990s, overflow runoff was supposed to be sent to a processing facility. After processing, it would be dumped into the Chattahoochee River. However, Bill Eisenhauer, an engineer, economist, and environmentalist, had a more sound proposal.

Eisenhauer thought a green infrastructure solution would be better for the environment and the community. Eisenhauer designed Historic Fourth Ward Park, a 5-acre recreational facility with a rainwater retention pond. Markham Smith, a local architect, noted the new concept when he saw that it would only cost $23 million.

For Eisenhauer’s dream of a new park to be built on the site of the former Sears warehouse, he enlisted Smith’s assistance in rallying interested parties, such as the Trust for Public Land and the Atlanta BeltLine, to buy the nearby decaying industrial property.

In 2008, construction was wrapped up on the park’s 17-acre section. The park can withstand a 500-year flood because of the stormwater drainage pond, which is dug into a bowl well below the water table and can store up to 4 million gallons of water before gently releasing it into the city’s sewage treatment facility.

This park was created by repurposing a former industrial area, which has greatly improved the quantity of green space in the Old Fourth Ward and helped mitigate floods and the urban heat island effect. Plant species in the park improve water penetration and evapotranspiration, reducing daily surplus water and storing significant runoff volumes.

The Atlanta Beltline, a key backer and collaborator in the park’s creation, has come under fire for the way it has helped to transform neighborhoods in the area. The expansion of the area around Historic Fourth Ward Park has included the construction of pricey loft apartments (some of which will be set aside as affordable housing), luxury real estate agencies, and fine dining establishments.

The BeltLine stated in January 2013 that it had purchased a 0.76-acre (3,100 m2) piece to link the park and the BeltLine.

Amenities and Attractions

The park is split into two phases. Phase 1 covers 5 acres from Morgan Street to Rankin Street and has a series of waterfalls and a stormwater retention pond. It opened in February 2011 in anticipation of a June 2011 grand opening.

The completed Phase II brings the park’s overall size to 12 acres. The portion of the park from Rankin Street to the south of Ralph McGill Boulevard, which opened to the public in June 2011, features an urban forest and a children’s playground. It also has a splash pad, a recirculating stream, an entry lawn, public restrooms, a grand staircase, a wildflower meadow, and an entry plaza off Ralph McGill Boulevard.

The area between North Avenue and Morgan Street, next to Masquerade (Atlanta) and Ponce City Market, will have a grand entrance, event lawn, and “artifact bosque” as part of the second phase. The public was given access to a portion of this expansion in January of 2012.

A 2.0-hectare (5.0-acre) segment was inaugurated in June 2011 separately from the main park. It is located next to the BeltLine and Freedom Parkway. Willoughby Way provides vehicular access, while the BeltLine provides pedestrian access. The facilities in this area include a sports field, a skate park, a playground, and changing rooms.

The park has a new pond, groomed paths, bridges, observation spots, grassy fields, a covered playground, and a splash pad so that locals may cool down in the summer.

There is a skate park that is located at 830 Willoughby Way. It is the first official skate park in the city of Atlanta, GA. There are bowls, curbs, and smooth-rolling concrete mounds spread around the facility’s 15,000 square feet (1,400 square meters).

Tony Hawk, a skating superstar, was on hand for the park’s grand opening in June 2011. With funding from Hawk’s charitable organization, the initiative received $25,000. Hawk claimed that his foundation’s choice to donate the money was significantly influenced by the clear vision of BeltLine authorities and the owner of Little Five Points’ Stratosphere skateboards, Thomas Taylor. They urged municipal officials to develop the park.

The pond in the park is equipped with an aerator fountain to prevent stagnation. An arena made of bermudagrass pads the pond’s edges.