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Q: What is Olmsted Linear Park?
A: The Olmsted Linear Park is a 45-acre greenspace that acts as a greenspace buffer along Ponce de Leon Avenue from the intersection of Briarcliff Road and Moreland Avenue to the east end of N. Ponce de Leon. The park contains five linear pastoral segments and one 22-acre picturesque and old-growth forest. Each segment was named for its significant natural attribute with the exception of Virgilee, which was named after Joel Hurt’s daughter, who passed away at an early age. Starting with Springdale and proceeding through Virgilee, Oak Grove, Shadyside, Dellwood and Deepdene, visitors are taken on a natural journey that includes many elements of Atlanta’s rich, turn-of-the-century culture history.
In 1890, Atlanta businessman Joel Hurt engaged Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., to prepare a plan for developing the area now known as Druid Hills. Olmsted was recognized as the nation’s pre-eminent designer of parks and public open spaces. His work included Central Park in New York City, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the Emerald Necklace of Boston, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville and the nation’s Capitol Grounds. The Olmsted firm submitted a preliminary plan to Hurt in 1893 in which the six-segment Linear Park was first laid out. The firm completed the final plan in 1905, two years after the death of Olmsted, and remained involved with the work until 1908, when the property was acquired by the Druid Hills Corporation. The area was then developed and the Park completed under the leadership of Coca-Cola magnate, Asa G. Candler. The design of Druid Hills soon became the standard by which other Atlanta developments were measured. The curving stretches of its landmark greenspace have delighted generations of area residents and the thousands of persons who come and go along Ponce de Leon Avenue every day.
Today, the park is maintained by the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance (OLPA), 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. In August 1995, interested citizens and non-profit organizations joined forces to stabilize and rehabilitate the Olmsted Linear Park. Led by the Olmsted Parks Society of Atlanta, Park Pride, the Druid Hills Garden Club and the Druid Hills Civic Association, the planning process incorporated the interests of residents, garden clubs, park advocates and preservationists. The Olmsted Linear Park Master Plan was developed with counsel from public officials and from local and national consultants, including historian Charles Beveridge, editor of the Olmsted Papers.
Atlanta, DeKalb County and Fernbank, the major stakeholders in the park, adopted the Master Plan in 1997, and OLPA was created to rehabilitate the park and provide ongoing maintenance.
The OLPA board of directors includes representatives from the Druid Hills community, the Neighborhood Planning Unit and the Olmsted Parks Society of Atlanta along with ex officio representatives from the city of Atlanta, DeKalb County and Fernbank. OLPA has undertaken the fundraising, restoration and maintenance activities recommended by the Master Plan.
All six park segments have been rehabilitated, work that has included the addition of nearly 6,000 linear feet of paths and the installation of 2,600 new trees and shrubs. The most expensive aspect of the restoration was the burial of utility lines. Approximately 11 miles of conduit and cable lie beneath the period lampposts that ring the park.
Q: Why is the park significant today?
A: The Olmsted Linear Park is a fabulous example of natural green space where one, regardless of age, gender, nationally or social standing, may enjoy the meditative environment of the Deepdene forest or relax under a canopy of large oaks in the pastoral vistas. Olmsted’s intent was to give park guests the opportunity to leave behind the drudgery of a work day and enjoy green open spaces. Landscape architects continue to study his work here even today.
Pathways were integral to the park Olmsted created. Routes were carefully devised to allow the visitor to enjoy the most scenic vistas, the bend in the path repeating the curve of the landscape. A parkway was another Olmstedian component, used in the residential suburbs he designed. He intended Ponce de Leon Parkway (its original name) not only to connect Druid Hills to the city but to provide space for recreational riding and carriage-driving. The traffic that hurries along Ponce de Leon Avenue today is more utilitarian, but as commuters enter the winding green corridor, they find release from the pressures of the city. “We want a ground to which people may easily go after the day’s work is done,” Olmsted wrote. Even now a century later, his artistic vision is still bringing pleasure to Atlanta residents and its visitors.
Q: Where is the Park located?
A: The park is located between the intersection of Briarcliff Road and Moreland Avenue and the east end of N. Ponce de Leon
Q: Is there a parking lot?
A: To maximize green space there is no parking lot. On-street parking is available along South Ponce de Leon Avenue and North Ponce de Leon Avenue.
Q: Can I take MARTA to the park?
A: Yes. Use MARTA – Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit System – Route: 2 Ponce de Leon Ave/Decatur
Q: What are the normal hours of operation?
A: The park follows standard Atlanta parks operating hours of 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Q: Is the park ADA accessible?
A: Yes. All of the pathways along the road entrances are ADA compliant.
Q: Can the park be used for weddings and other events?
A: For information about permitting and reserving the park, contact City of Atlanta Parks Reservations at: (404) 546-6757 or DeKalb County Park…….
We encourage events be low-impact and request that any damage to park be repaired at no cost to the OLPA. Large gatherings, music festivals, etc. are less appropriate give the nature of the park, the proximity to Ponce de Leon Avenue and limited parking.
Q: What should I do in case of emergency?
A: In case of emergency, call 911 immediately.
Q: How do I report maintenance issues, fallen trees or large limbs or other issues?
A: Call the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance at (404) 377-5361. If outside of business hours, you can leave a message.
Q: How Can I get Involved in the Park?