Thursday January 20th, 2022 4:10AM

Community leaders break ground on new Butler Park

By Lauren Hunter Multimedia Journalist
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Local leaders and elected officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for the new Butler Park off of Athens Street in Gainesville.

The new park, which will be located behind the Hall County Health Department, will feature a playground, pavilion, restrooms, basketball court and more.

"I remember growing up near a park and having a place to go play and be outside and stay out of trouble, and parks are such an integral part of keeping us healthy and alive and being such a good place to just let your energy out," said Jeff Stowe, Hall County District 4 Commissioner.

Stowe represents the district where the park will be located. He said the area has been "underserved" since E.E. Butler High School closed, making a park even more important for nearby residents.

"As you can tell by today, the number of people that turned out for a groundbreaking is probably fourfold the most we've ever had turnout for another groundbreaking ceremony," said Stowe.

The park groundbreaking ceremony comes along with the continued restoration of the Butler Center, which is a portion of the old E.E. Butler High School.

According to a statement sent by a Hall County Government spokesperson, grant funding approved by the National Park Service earlier this year made more than half a million dollars available for the construction of the park. Around the same time, Gainesville City School officials found out that they would receive federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund for continued restoration of the Butler Center.

Grant funding will be used to restore an unused portion of the center that was once E.E. Butler High School's gym and classroom space. Currently, the Butler Center is owned by Ninth District Opportunity and is used for the nonprofit's Head Start Program.

In a press statement, Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams said the school system has created a committee to brainstorm ideas and potential partners for the Butler Center restoration. He said the work will be an extension of the school system and Hall County Family Connection Network.

Among those who spoke at yesterday's ceremony was Reverend Rose Johnson, executive director of Gainesville civil rights group Newtown Florist Club. 

Johnson, who is also an alumni of E.E. Butler High School, called the new park a "dream come true."

"I see a lot of hope for this community, I see a community that is moving forward into its future, a community that is moving together as one community," said Johnson. "That's the vision that we have for the kind of community that we want to live in...it's just an absolutely phenomenal moment."

Johnson said in a press statement that discussions for the Butler Center and park began in August of last year. These discussions led to the formation of an E.E. Butler Center Steering Committee, which under the leadership of Andre' Cheek-Castleberry, has worked to bring government and officials together.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: gainesville, jeff stowe, Hall County Health Department, Butler Park, Rev. Rose Johnson
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