Covington officials want their iconic square park to be used even more frequently in 2014 and are planning to add some new touches.
The Covington City Council voted unanimously to ask the county – which owns the park area in the square – for permission to build a gazebo, or other similar structure, to the southeast corner of the square and to add more park benches. A Civil War historical marker could also be added.
The ideas are in the preliminary stages, as no final designs have been selected, but Mayor Ronnie Johnston said he’d like to see the square looking in top shape by spring, including a new landscaping plan.
"My overall goal is when spring hits, everybody says, ‘Holy smokes! I wish the city had taken over (the square) a long time ago,’" Johnston said Tuesday.
The city and county signed an agreement in November 2013 that gives the city authority to maintain the square and landscape it any way city officials see fit; however, permanent changes to the park still have to be approved by the county.
City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said the plan is to build a permanent structure for concerts and events, as opposed to using temporary canopies as is often done now. The structure, which would likely be a wooden gazebo-like building, would be located on the southeast side of the square where the pavement pad is located. Knight said the plan is to match any new structure to the current style around the square as closely as possible.
The city’s request will next be brought before the Newton County Board of Commissioners, but the item was not on the board’s Tuesday agenda.
Because the designs aren’t finalized, the cost hasn’t been determined. However, Main Street Covington will contribute around $14,000 to the project, including several thousand dollars donated previously by Bonanza Productions, which produces "The Vampire Diaries" TV show. The city of Covington will cover the rest of the cost.
Four benches will be added to provide more seating on the square, according to Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon, while the Civil War marker is being proposed by the Dalton-based Whitfield–Murray Historical Society. Knight said Tuesday the society believes Union troops led by Brigadier Gen. Jefferson Davis slept on the square in 1864 during General William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea.
She said Monday the marker would probably be similar to other Civil War plaques around town.