Behind the Newton County Health Department and near the Covington Branch of the Newton County Library, you will find a very different place, Chimney Park. This 12 acre site is a place for people of all ages to reconnect with nature.
Spend a little time just off of Floyd Street at the park and you will find why it is said this is “A Park with Heart.” The dream started with building an outdoor sanctuary for families with children with special needs. But soon grew to be a place where people of all ages and abilities could connect with nature.
The Park is being developed by a group of people who have formed, “Friends of Newton Park.” There is a board of sixteen people, chaired by Mrs. Jean Austin that leads the work. In their vision statement they “envision Chimney Park to be a peaceful urban woodland that attracts children and adults of all abilities with community activities and elements that encourage passive play, exploration, imagination, quite contemplation and respect for nature and history.”
Where the park is today, once stood a farm house. The only thing remaining of that house is one of its two chimneys and the original foundation. The house was the Martin-Patterson House that was built sometime between 1910 and 1918. It was built by E.G. Martin, son of a Presbyterian Minister that had moved to Newton County from South Carolina in 1871. E. G. Martin married Susie Ramsey, great aunt of Mayor Sam Ramsey. He was built at the time as a “modern farm house.” It is said that Peter Marshall, one of the most noted “preachers” of the twentieth Century, spent many hours rocking on house’ porches writing his sermons. The story of Marshall’s life was featured in the movie, “A Man Called Peter” that was partially shot here in Covington. It stood empty for several years before it burned to the ground in the late 1980s. Still at the heart of the park you will find one of chimneys and the houses foundation.
Truly this is a park that is limited only by the imagination. A sign in the park challenges those who pass by with the words of William Shakespeare, “Tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermon in stones and good in everything.”
There are two annual signature events held in the park each year. They are the December event of “Twilights in Chimney Park” and in May “Fairy Houses at Chimney Park.” “Twilights” features thousands of lights in Christmas displays. The park is filled with carolers and storytellers as various groups serve up cider and hot coco. The “Fairy Houses” is a fanciful tour of naturally made fairy house along with story tellers, winged children, crafts, and refreshments. This years “Twilights” will be the eight production and is on December 6. The date next May for “Fairy Houses at Chimney Park” is May 7.
Steve Fuss, a member of the board, designed the sign on Floyd Street that leads to the park. He and other board members have worked on the plans to use columns and other design elements to give a sense of presence of the house that used to be. The Satsuki Garden Club has donated funds that will build the columns that will help one imagine the old farm house.
Improvements at the park that have been made possible by “the Friends” include a fire pits where houses many activities at the two Friend’s two annual events, as well as other activities. They have also brought electricity to much of the park, paved walking trails, and some signage.
Another future plan is to use pavers that were donated by the builders of the Miracle League of Newton County. These remained after they finished their project. The plan is to use them to cap off the old foundation and build an area for small performances near the chimney.
The Park is used for events other than the two annual events sponsored by the Friends of Newton Park. On Oct. 24, The Heartlands Woman’s Club will sponsor “Scary Tales and Trails – 2015”. Marshmallows will be roasted and S’more’s made around the fire pit. Part of the proceeds will go to the work of the park.
The Park has hosted several weddings. Covington’s annual Mutt Show was scheduled for the park this past spring but heavy rain forced the show inside. Weather permitting the Mutt Show will probably be at the park in 2016.
The full impact of Chimney Park is yet to be realized. You are invited to be a part of this ongoing project. A challenge is found on the rim of the fire pit at the park. It is a quote from Dr. Seuss, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing it going to get better. It’s not.”
You can get more information about this project from the Friends of Newton Park. Their address is P.O. Box 726, Oxford GA, 30054. Their Email address is Chimneypark672@gmail.com. You can make a donation by going to their web site, Chimney-Park.com.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.