Following a Jan. 4 fire that destroyed the Chastain Park Conservancy’s headquarters, the city will help it find a new or renovated home that might be better suited for its next decade of growth, according to District 8 City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit.
“Out of loss can come opportunity,” said Matzigkeit, who co-founded the parks advocacy group and previously served as its board chair.
Known as the Barn, the headquarters was a large hut made of prefabricated steel dating to the World War II era, located off Powers Ferry Road within the park. The Conservancy had planned to rename it and the surrounding area after Ray Mock, another co-founder, who died last year. The group lost a pickup truck and maintenance equipment in the blaze, but little else, Executive Director Rosa McHugh previously said in a website post.
“The city is committed to providing the Conservancy a home for its operations,” said Matzigkeit. That means help in finding short-term office space, he said, “but also [to] take a moment and think about the next 10 years.”
He said the options could include renovating other little-used buildings in the park, such as one used for golf course maintenance and another that was once used by the Department of Watershed Management. The former Watershed building, he said, is currently being used by the Department of Public Works to store an emergency supply of salt and sand in case of bad weather during February’s Super Bowl.
“We’re going to get people at the table and have folks talk about needs,” Matzigkeit said. “Maybe we’ll rebuild right there. Maybe [we’ll] use the Watershed building. Maybe we’ll figure something out.”
Matzigkeit worked with Mock and others in renovating the Barn starting in 2003.
“My memories are of all the good times that we had there and all the volunteer events… thinking about what it was and how it improved,” Matzigkeit said, recalling its “evolution.” He said the Barn was “almost like an antique car you had, rusted out at the beginning, and you worked and worked” until it was running well.
But, he added, the Conservancy itself is what is truly important to Chastain Park.
“The Conservancy is a wonderful organization… not because of the Barn, but because of the friendships you made,” he said. “That’s bigger than any building.”