By Joe Earle

Little Nancy Creek Park
Volunteers Tom Trevett (with shovel), Mark Stovin and Sadie Stovin, 9, work on the parking lot for the new garden at Little Nancy Creek Park.

Christy Roberts looked pleased. The first greens of spring had appeared, poking bright leaves through the soil at the new community garden at Little Nancy Creek Park.

“It pops up fast,” said Roberts, manager of the community garden. “Those greens weren’t here two weeks ago. It pops up fast. It’s awesome.”

It wasn’t all that long ago that the garden itself wasn’t there. The community garden at Little Nancy Creek Park is meeting its first spring.

And it’s taking off. The twenty raised beds in the garden on Peachtree-Dunwoody Road now all are being tended by gardeners from surrounding neighborhoods. Two more people are on a waiting list should any additional space open up.

On March 20, a dozen or more adults and children spent a Saturday afternoon making improvements to the garden. The volunteers grabbed shovels and wheelbarrows and spread gravel on the parking area next to the garden.

The garden is only one of a number of projects Brookhaven and Buckhead residents plan for the 5-acre park. Fundraising will begin soon to raise $150,000 for installation of a playground, said Joe Cronk , vice president of the Friends of Little Nancy Creek Park, the nonprofit group that funnels improvements to the city of Atlanta park. Boy Scouts pursuing Eagle badges plan projects to bring bat boxes, trails and bird houses to the park.

Other work already is complete. Scouts already have overseen construction of picnic tables and an information board at the park. Volunteers from a nearby business installed the garden. Volunteers from the neighborhoods cleared underbrush that covered much of the lowlands around the creek.

One recent Friday, board member Lisa Dickerson pointed to a small stand of underbrush that remains. Scrub pines and other scraggly growth made the area appear impenetrable.

“That’s how the whole park looked,” she said as she and Cronk sat at the picnic tables overlooking the creek, which rolled by 30 to 40 feet away. “All this area has been cleared by hand.”

“It was thick,” Cronk said. “You could not see the creek from here.”

The city purchased the land for the park in July 2007. Now it’s up to the nonprofit to find ways to make improvements in the park. “The city bought the land. We’re doing everything after that,” Cronk said.

Volunteers have taken part in 15 work days, Dickerson said. In September, people from surrounding neighborhoods built wooden railings on the bridge that crosses the creek that ambles through the park.

After the bridge railings were installed, the Friends of Little Nancy Creek Park adopted a new logo featuring the bridge in order to illustrate park supporters’ efforts to bridge the two neighborhoods, Brookhaven and Buckhead, that surround the park, Cronk said. The park, located on Peachtree Dunwoody about a half mile north of Peachtree Road, sits at the dividing line between the two neighborhoods.

“We operate as one big community,” Cronk said. “We have volunteers, fundraising days, work days with both communities.”

The idea of bridging the two communities is built into the structure of the nonprofit organization. Its board draws half its members from each of the neighborhoods, Cronk said. The group has co-presidents, one from Brookhaven and one from Buckhead, board members said.

“Here’s a location for all of us to come together and just celebrate being outside,” board member Lisa Martinez said.

And, while outside, to walk along the creek, picnic among the trees or grow something like those first green sprouts of spring that Roberts spotted in the community garden.

“Hey, who’s watering this garden?” fellow volunteer Tom Trevett of Brookhaven asked as he and Roberts shoveled gravel in the parking lot.

“God is right now,” Roberts responded with a laugh.

But Roberts, like others involved with the park, has plans. She intends to install a hose. Then Little Nancy Creek Park’s gardeners can tend their greenery on days when providence doesn’t provide.