Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Parks & Recreation: Fundamental for This City

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Parks & Recreation: Fundamental for This City

Article excerpt

What's a young, aspiring playwright do with her first script? In Peachtree City, Georgia, the 15-year-old girl took her work to the parks and recreation department. By the time the curtain went up, more than 30 teenagers were involved in the all-adolescent production.

The play spawned a creative explosion, of sorts. After taking their bows, the teenagers persuaded the parks and recreation department to help them organize their own performing arts center.

The response to the young playwright might not have been possible in other cities. Peachtree City's 2,000-seat outdoor amphitheater certainly made the decision more palatable by providing an inexpensive setting to stage the play. But the project also reflected the attitude of 23,000 residents and city officials toward recreational services. The people's expectations run high and the public officials rarely have trouble meeting the demands.

While parks and recreation areas may pose challenges for other municipalities, they are part of Peachtree City's physical and social framework; part of the infrastructure within a master plan devised and implemented by Peachtree City Development Corporation (PCDC), the city's primary developer. By making parks and recreation areas an integral part of each neighborhood and as fundamental as roads and utilities, city officials here can concentrate on programs and outreach services.

The Peachtree City Development Corporation is developing Peachtree City's 15,500 acres under a contract with Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, which owns most of the undeveloped land. The city, founded and incorporated in 1959, will reach its maximum population of 45,000 by 2010. The one developer-one owner team, along with cooperation from elected officials, has made Peachtree City, which is 30 miles south of Atlanta, one of the most successful master-planned cities in the nation.

The centerpiece of the development plan is a network of greenbelts, overlaid with 50 miles of asphalt paths, connecting the city's 200 neighborhoods with schools, recreational fields and commercial areas. The asphalt trails form an alternative transportation system open to pedestrian, bicycle and golf cart travel and are referred to by residents as cart paths. More than 3,000 families, most of whom do not play golf, have their own carts. The cart paths cost a minimal amount to construct and the land is dedicated to the city, which provides the maintenance.

Small parks are interspersed throughout the city along the greenbelts and recreational areas are located within walking distance of most neighborhoods.

Two large artificial lakes, which are used as drinking water reservoirs, offer fishing and non-motorized boating. Two golf courses, with a total of 45 holes, are so popular a third is under construction.

In all, more than 30 percent of the city is open space, parks or recreation area, fostering an atmosphere of social interaction and outdoor activity unavailable in many cities of comparable size.

The city estimates that 85 percent of residents use the parks, ball fields, tennis courts, golf courses and cart paths. With so many recreational opportunities, residents have taken a leading role in organizing activities and in improving facilities.

Most of the sports programs, for youngsters and adults, are managed by volunteer coaches and coordinators. Many of the benches and gazebos that decorate the parks and cart paths are donated by civic and neighborhood groups.

The city's leisure services manager, Marcy Curry, sums up the residents' attitude toward recreation this way: "What's accepted in other cities," she said, "is not enough here. Peachtree City is unique. People have very high standards."

She also says there is little doubt that the many after-school programs have contributed to the city's low crime rate, particularly among teenagers, and have influenced local students' educational achievements. …

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