News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, April 24, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- City leaders are working to redevelop downtown and the areas around it to attract more families and more businesses.
On Wednesday, they celebrated Community Development Week at an event in Dyess Park. Neighbors say they are already noticing a difference.
"The whole area's just better, the whole area," said Gilbert Grier, who has lived across the street from Dyess Park for six years.
Grier grew up just a few blocks away, and over the past year, he's watched the renovation process clean up the park and his neighborhood.
"You'd have fellas over there selling drugs, then you had the fools over there going and buying them, but we don't have that [any] more," Grier said.
It's not just the drugs that have cleared out -- Gilbert says the people who used to sleep in the park are gone, too.
"Now you don't have the drunks or the hoodlums, you don't have them in the area," he said. "There's nothing for them to do, so they have to go somewhere else."
Many of the people who live around the area say one of the best things they did was adding a fence and gate that close off the park at night. They've also added a new gazebo area and a walking trail, cleaned up the inside of the community center and improved the overall look of the park.
This is all part of phase one of the renovations -- there are five more to go.
"This is nice. It's a start, it's still got a ways to go, and we're looking forward to it," said Dennis Harvey, who uses the park every week.
Phases two through six involve adding a new pool area, renovating the playground and the inside of the community center, covering the basketball courts, adding new covered tennis courts and redesigning the open green space.
"It's a big improvement for the community because I think this has been long overdue and people needed this," Harvey said.
A safe place to play, and for Grier, a safe place to live. Grier says he's noticed that they've also added patrols two to three times a night and the gates to the park close when it gets dark.
As for when phase two will begin, they say the projects are ready to go, but it just depends on funding. They are funded by SPLOST and community development grants, so they'll start the next phase when the money becomes available.