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Jose Garcia and Aulelio Corranza plant one of 13 oak trees that will grow in Delano Park west of Sixth Avenue in Southeast Decatur.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
Jose Garcia and Aulelio Corranza plant one of 13 oak trees that will grow in Delano Park west of Sixth Avenue in Southeast Decatur.

Pardon the progress
Native species to replace uprooted trees, shrubs at Delano Park

By Chris Paschenko
chris@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

Earlier this month a Decatur resident, whose front porch overlooks a city park, was puzzled to find landscapers ripping up grass and shrubs and cutting down a tree planted by Girl Scouts.

The extirpation of Delano Park west of Sixth Avenue Southeast nearly gave Betty Hopkins, 75, “heart failure,” she said.

“They pushed over everything, even a magnolia tree planted six to eight years ago,” she said. “I sat and watched the Girl Scouts plant that tree. I’ve lived here since 1996. I don’t know why it had to be done.”

Worried the eyesore would lower the value of her Prospect Drive home, Hopkins went to the city for answers, and when no one returned her call, she phoned The Daily on Feb. 8.

Park group’s vision

Nell Standridge, with Friends of Delano Park, explains to Betty Hopkins about the improvements being made to the park, which is across the street from Hopkins’ home.
Daily photo by Emily Saunders
Nell Standridge, with Friends of Delano Park, explains to Betty Hopkins about the improvements being made to the park, which is across the street from Hopkins’ home.
The Daily contacted Friends of Delano Park, a volunteer organization dedicated to improving the park, and the organization referred questions to Melinda Dunn, who is the non-profit group’s liaison to the city.

Nell Standridge, with Friends of Delano Park, visited Hopkins that afternoon to explain the group’s vision for improving the park west of Sixth Avenue.

Dunn said two public forums were held before 2004, informing area residents of the coming changes. The Parks and Recreation board, the Decatur Historic Preservation Commission and Alabama Historical Commission approved the plan, she said.

“The park will follow the look and placement of the 1930s from historical, aerial photographs,” Dunn said. “The tree line will be the same in keeping with native species.”

A $200,000 Department of Transportation grant and tax-deductible, private donations are funding the work, including the seven willow oak trees planted on the grounds last week. Dunn said a total of 13 willow oaks would be planted there.

Dunn said Carolyn Cortner Smith, a pioneering female architect from the Courtland area, began improving the park with stone structures and a rose garden in the 1930s as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration.

“She designed the key focal elements,” Dunn said. “All the WPA improvements were done under Smith.”

Landscape contractors will complete a walking Trail of History, with signs describing Decatur’s heritage, and plant 13 willow trees.

Dunn said grass, trees and irrigation would be in by summer, greatly improving Hopkins’ view.

“You know Friends is not going to put anything ugly or junky there,” Dunn said, citing its work on the park’s rose garden just east of Sixth Avenue.

Friends of Delano Park are also working to secure funding for completion of the park’s master plan, which includes picnic pavilions, additional parking and a location for monument memorials.

Those plans include four Yoshino cherry trees, 14 inkberry holly shrubs, 12 winter jasmine plants, mondo grass and 324 annuals.

The park formally opened July 1941 after The Daily held a December 1933 naming contest, Dunn said.

After receiving 300 suggestions, Ms. A.A. Winton took home the $5 prize January 1934 for suggesting Delano, reportedly in honor of the president.

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