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Heritage Park takes shape

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP
Advance Managing Editor
A new park being constructed at the corner of Main and Craig Street has begun to take shape and Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce director Emilie Mims is planning for a dedication ceremony in the spring.
Atmore Heritage Park has been a work in progress for the past three years. The idea for the park began when Atmore resident Billy Watson and his family asked the chamber if they were interested in taking a cabin from his property near Jack Springs Road. The cabin had been in his family since its construction in 1845 in Wilcox County. The building was moved to his property in Atmore in 1989.
Watson gave it to the chamber as a gift and the building is now a permanent fixture in Atmore's newest park. Mims said the cabin was the beginning of an even bigger idea.
Once the house was donated, the chamber began looking for money to help with the move. The cabin had to be disassembled in order to move it to its new location.
Through fundraisers and donations, the chamber raised $58,000 to help get the house to its new site. Much of that money came from a group of corporate sponsors. The list of donors included: Swift Lumber Company, Swift Supply, Frontier Communications, United Bank, First National Bank, Regions Bank, Alabama Power Company, Masland Carpets, Creek Bingo Palace, Poarch Creek Indians, Church's Chicken, Atmore Garden Club, J-Mar Trucking, Diamonds Food Mart, Alltel Products, Vanity Fair and Atmore Area Leadership.
With the money raised and help from the corporate sponsors, the house was moved to its current location in 1999.
While discussions regarding the house were taking place, First National Bank offered another building, the Webb-Peavy Building, to the Atmore Historical Society if they could move it from its location on North Main Street. The chamber and Historical Society worked together to move the building onto the same property as the Watson cabin.
Once the chamber had made the commitment to move the cabin, an architect was hired to layout a park around the building.
Once again, the chamber looked for help in making the park a reality. This time, they applied for a grant through Alabama Power's Plant-A-Tree Foundation. They were approved for the grant which will help plant trees around the perimeter of the park.
While the same time, the City of Atmore had applied and been approved for an ISTEA grant which has been used for constructing sidewalks along several streets within the city limits. The work currently being done at the park was funded by the city as part of the sidewalk work being done through the grant.
Some trees were moved from the property. Instead of clearing the trees with bulldozers, the trees were pulled up by professional tree movers and relocated to city hall and Rachel Patterson Elementary School. The chamber and city combined funds to pay for the relocation.
Once the landscaping work is completed, the park will be opened to the public. In fact, the park could have already been completed had the weather been more cooperative during the past month.
Besides the two historical buildings that have been moved to the location, the park will also feature a lawn amphitheater and a central plaza with sidewalks.
Mims said despite getting closer to opening the park, there are still some things that will need to be done and other things she hopes will be done in the future.
The chamber sees the park as a gathering spot for the community and a place for special events.