Writer: Baker Owens
Downtown Thomson is getting a new park based on community engagement through the UGA Institute of Government’s Renaissance Strategic Visioning Program (RSVP).
The project builds off the community’s participation with the UGA Archway Partnership™ which started in 2017. Among the many recommendations the community identified during the RSVP process was additional gathering space downtown, such as a playground or additional greenspace.
Thanks to UGA College of Engineering students working through Archway, a full design for a park was developed for the property adjacent to the government complex on Railroad Street in downtown. The Railroad Street Park design was based on concepts developed during the RSVP work with the UGA Institute of Government. Comprehensive plans included a playground, event space and the infrastructure required for a project of this magnitude.
Now, the project is underway thanks to a $2.2 million grant from the Improving Neighborhood Outcomes in Disproportionately Impacted Communities program in the governor’s office. Construction is expected to begin later this year.
“We are so pleased to have received this grant and look forward to continuing to bring new life to downtown Thomson. With the dedication of community members and our UGA partners, the Archway Partnership and the Institute of Government, we have already seen tremendous improvements and renewal across the community and this is another step in those collaborations,” said David Crawley, McDuffie’s county manager.
The park will consist of both passive and active outdoor recreational opportunities, providing a place for friends and families to meet and a central location for socializing and community gatherings. The park will include a performance amphitheater, pavilion, themed playgrounds with 2- to 5-year-old and 5- to 12-year-old play structures, interactive fountain plaza, walking trail, public restrooms, and associated lighting and utility upgrades. Multiple covered structures will be available for picnics and other gatherings.
“The RSVP plan from the UGA Institute of Government helped to put up a frame for this project and work from UGA Archway students helped to fill in the gaps. Thanks to those plans, when funding became available, we had a bit of a head start and were able to take advantage of this great opportunity,” said Crawley. “The new park will be a great place for McDuffie County friends and families to come together in their daily lives but also a great event space that can attract visitors from across the region. We’re looking forward to the first concert at the amphitheater and showing off downtown Thomson to residents and visitors alike.”
The park will serve as an anchor for visits to downtown, with high visibility thanks to its location next to the government center and the heavily trafficked Railroad Street. The park will also be a stop on a planned walking trail in Thomson, dubbed the “Music Mile,” which would celebrate the musical heritage of Thomson and offer a pedestrian and exercise route through downtown. The trail would feature information points about the local music history of Thomson, including Thomson native and legendary bluesman Blind Willie McTell—the namesake of Thomson’s annual music festival.
The Archway Partnership is one of eight UGA Public Service and Outreach units dedicated to serving the state. UGA’s innovative approach to community engagement and the Archway Partnership earned the 2022 C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. To learn more about the Archway Partnership visit archwaypartnership.uga.edu.