This May will mark four years since the ceremonial groundbreaking for Rodney Cook Sr. Park, the Westside’s answer to popular Historic Fourth Ward Park. The two greenspaces, located on either side of downtown, are equal in size, flood-solving function, and a visual appeal that's somehow both contemporary and timeless.
A visit to the 16-acre site in Vine City presents a dynamic communal gathering space of spacious lawns and fresh plantings, a rippling water feature, and impressive works of stone and engineered steel.
It’s a case, more or less, of project renderings coming to life. You just can’t go there yet.
Cook Park was originally expected to open in spring 2018. Parks officials over the years have blamed surprises with unsuitable soils, issues with underground utilities, exceptionally rainy seasons, and more recently the pandemic when punting the grand opening into the future.
At this point, the construction timeline for Cook Park has been longer than that of $1.6-billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which peeks into the park from a couple of blocks away.
Jay Wozniak, Trust for Public Land urban parks director, tells Urbanize Atlanta this week that Cook Park is nearing completion and expected to open this spring.
Two blocks west of the Georgia World Congress Center, the park is connected by new protected bike lanes to the Westside BeltLine Connector trail and the rest of downtown.
What will Atlantans find at Cook Park, once the fences finally come down? A versatile greenspace like no other in town, basically.
There’s a rock-climbing structure, splashpad, restroom building topped with a skyline overlook, futuristic-looking playgrounds, wide sidewalks built to accommodate farmers markets and festivals, multi-use sports courts, a great lawn, and a terraced bank of seating for picnicking with views of the city.
Cook Park’s defining feature, however, could be a sweeping, 650-foot steel bridge. It takes visitors across a 10-million-gallon retention pond designed to slurp up rainwater that's notoriously caused major flooding in Vine City—one factor in the neighborhood’s economic slump the past several decades.
As Wozniak pointed out, the park’s planning process involved collaboration with nearby residents of all ages, by way of meetings and design charrettes. It’s a $35 million investment overall, funded by the city’s departments of Watershed Management and Parks and Recreation, and the Trust for Public Land.
The park’s name pays homage to Rodney Cook Sr., the late city leader and Georgia state representative known for championing civil rights.
In September, the Saporta Report relayed that the greenspace is still planned to eventually be studded with statues honoring civil rights leaders, in alphabetical order, beginning with Reverend Ralph David Abernathy and including a finished sculpture of late Congressman John Lewis.
Back then, the park was expected to be open last fall.
• Vine City (Urbanize Atlanta)