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Posted: October 31, 2013 9:00 p.m.

Chimney Park ready to shine

Season creep is in full swing. It’s that unique point in the year when three badly timed holidays — Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas — battle for shelf space and our always-limited attention.

We all have a little bit of attention deficit disorder these days. With some difficulty, we try to focus on one season before another one intrudes into our consciousness; then, they all blur into one mad dash. In my mind’s eye, I imagine an angry pumpkin chasing down a frightened turkey, and then delivering a knockout punch to a shrieking elf. Halloween candy is offered at deep discounts today. Thanksgiving is less than four weeks away, with Christmas in hot pursuit just three and a half weeks later.

Season creep is even happening at Chimney Park adjacent to the county health building. The leaves have hardly begun to turn, but work got under way last weekend to ready the park for its big holiday event, "Twilights at Chimney Park."

Normally, it’s held the first Sunday in December, but the date has been moved back a week to Dec. 8 this year because Thanksgiving weekend spans the traditional day for the festival.

Last Saturday was Change the World Day, sponsored by First United Methodist Church, and it spawned an army of volunteers who fanned out across the community to undertake goodwill projects. Some of those volunteers, along with members and leaders of two Girl Scout troops, showed up at Chimney Park ready to decorate the park for its end-of-year light show. They joined members of the board of Friends of Newton Parks Inc., (FONP), which has responsibility for developing the park.

The park will be filled with many familiar lighted elements, such as rope lights — many more this year — dangling from 60 feet up in some of the tallest trees, and lighted Hula-hoops and bicycles suspended in mid-air. There will also be new features to illuminate the night, such as magical globes of Christmas tree lights created by Girl Scouts under the tutelage of FONP Board Chair Jean Austin. "Every year, we work really hard to incorporate something new and different into the evening," said Austin.

Another example will be the Fairy House Snow Village being organized by annual Fairy House Festival Chair Linda Shore.

As you might recall, last spring’s Fairy House Festival, scheduled for the first Saturday in May, was canceled when flooding rains turned the park into a virtual lake. Fairy houses you didn’t see then are being revamped and decorated in a holiday motif, not to be missed.

But the most exciting new element at this year’s Twilights event will be the long-planned paved pathway into the park, providing long-promised wheelchair-access for children and adults. The concrete path, 6 feet wide, enters the park at a new entry point from the parking lot at the county health building.

There will no longer be access to the park behind the library, Austin emphasizes.

"It’s a much prettier approach to the park," she said, "and we will be thrilled to welcome those who have previously been denied easy access to daily use and special events.

"We’ve cherished the dream of a paved path for a number of years, but now it’s reality, thanks to the generous support of this community for our major fundraising project honoring David Waller in September," Austin continued.

Waller is the local hero who agreed — after a great deal of unrelenting "encouragement" — to be honored at a tribute in order to raise funds for the park, a longtime passion of Waller and his wife, Connie.

Waller retired in 2003 as director of the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), having spent his entire career there, starting as a wildlife biologist.

He helped to pass national legislation resulting in multimillions of dollars in conservation grants to states; saw more than 100,000 acres added in Georgia to wildlife management and natural area systems; created six regional education centers, including the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield; and created the country’s most successful licensing program that raised millions for DNR programs.

He was recognized as one of the top state wildlife directors in the United States.

Locally, Waller spearheaded building a countywide trail, a portion of which now runs through Chimney Park; helped develop the visionary 2050 plan; and champions parks, green space and outdoor recreation in the county.

As a result of the fundraising tribute to Waller, FONP exceeded its dollar goal, enabling not only the paving of the wheelchair access, but also construction of the foundation for the granite fire pit in the heart of the park.

"Chimney Park is truly a community park," said Austin, "because the community’s affection for this unique urban woodland supports and inspires its continued development."

See you all at "Twilights!"

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Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics. She can be reached at barbm2158@gmail.com.

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