Seven years later, the Eastside High School sophomore believes the subdivision may finally become a neighborhood.
"I was really little back then, but I always knew something was missing. Today, seven years later, we found the missing piece to our puzzle," Rodriguez said Wednesday at the groundbreaking ceremony for Fairview Community Park. "I always dreamed of a park, somewhere I could hang out with my friends, or just go for a walk."
Rodriguez initially opposed the park. She spoke against the park in September at a Board of Commissioners meeting. She talked Wednesday about how she feared for her little sister, worrying about the dangers brought on by an influx of strangers. She no longer has those fears.
"Now I know that this is a place where kids can come, instead of being in the streets where there's danger of getting run over, or maybe (kidnapped)," Rodriguez said. "Now we have the security that somebody will be watching them. I will volunteer for that because I will be out here a lot when the park is done."
Newton County District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz saw that fear on the campaign trail, when people were hesitant to come and answer her knock on their doors. The months of dialogue between residents and the county about whether to place a public park in Fairview Estates helped break down those barriers, she said.
Glen Misner, director of field services for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, said Newton County was the only community in Georgia that proposed to build a park with its Neighborhood Stabilization Program money.
"The bottom line is about the folks that live here. This is what it's all about, creating an environment where people have safe, decent housing," Misner said. "They say it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a green space or a park to make a village."
Other speakers included county Chairman Kathy Morgan, Scott Sirotkin, director of the department of developmental services, and R.J. Fields, president of IECDG, the non-profit partner that worked to make the park a reality. Fields also thanked SunTrust Bank for working with IECDG and eventually selling the 18-acre tract of land that will house the park.
The first phase of the park will cost about $200,000 and will include a parking lot, pavilion, toddler playground and a 1/4-mile walking trail with benches. Contractor Pacific Ventures has 120 days to finish construction according to the contract, weather permitting, Sirotkin said Tuesday.
Resident Thomas Hopper said Wednesday that he was glad to see the area cleaned up, because people used to dump mattresses and old bicycles on the vacant lots and sometimes even started fires.The county chose Fairview Estates for the NSP because of the subdivision's high number of foreclosures. Officials contend a park will raise property values more than adding housing to an already glutted market.