Union Street Park hits road bump

Published 8:04 pm Friday, November 29, 2019

Earlier this week, the LaGrange City Council faced an unexpected obstacle in the sale and relocation of Frank Cox Union Street Park.

The property where the park currently sits is needed for the Hamilton Road widening project, and the council agreed to sell the property to the Georgia Department of Transportation in April, with funds from the sale to go toward the purchase of adjacent property. 

“A couple of months ago, DOT came to us about Union Street Park and the need to acquire a great portion of that for the widening of Hamilton Road,” Kelsey said. “The council agreed to sell them the property. In this case, we decided not to donate like we had done with previous parcels because we needed the funds to move forward with locating and purchasing more land to build another park to establish in that community.”

However, a title search on the property revealed that the park property had been donated to the city by a local church on the condition that it be used as a park.

“It was to be reverted back to the church if the property wasn’t used for park, so [GDOT] reached out to the church and asked them to sign a quick claim deed,” Kelsey said. “

The church reached out to us to ask us what was going on. We had no idea that there was a reversionary clause on the property, so we sat down and talked to members of the church board and asked them what they would like to do.”

The city had requested $176,000 for the property from GDOT, but with the condition, $117,000 of those funds will go to First Baptist Church on Fannin Street. The impact of the change in funds on the future purchase of additional land for the park was not discussed on Tuesday.

While the park was under discussion, Council Member Nathan Gaskin took the opportunity to ask State Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), who was in attendance, if anything could be done to save a large Christmas tree in the park that has been at the center of celebrations over the years. After the sale goes through, the tree will be on GDOT property, but it is expected to be well out of the way of the road itself.

“There is a Christmas tree on the right of way. We would like to preserve it,” Gaskin said. 

“It’s part of the park, but I don’t think the road is going really go all the way out to consume it. We just like you guys take that into consideration that it has a beautiful tree. We’d like it to stick around.”

Robertson and LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said the request could be conveyed to GDOT.

“It is a very old tree, and it would be nice to preserve it if possible,” Thornton said. “I don’t think it would affect visibility, safety factors.”

The LaGrange City Council will meet again on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Ave.