ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) – There will be a new park coming to Athens at the site of a former chicken plant, thanks to a little help from a Dekko Foundation grant.
Sunrise Park has been in the works in Athens for several months as the city has held community meetings and created a preliminary design for the park. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management performed phase 1 and 2 studies to support the city’s efforts.
Pilgrim’s Pride, the chicken plant which was located on 32 acres of land on Pryor Street, closed its doors in 2009. Over 600 people lost their jobs as a result, and the building stood useless near Athens State University and Downtown.
After years of negotiation, city officials made a deal with Pilgrim’s to buy the property. Then, they got to work removing asbestos, unrepairable buildings and holding ponds. Bridges crossing the waterway were inspected and 32 acres of grass were sown on the property.
“We had a dangerous eyesore in the middle of our city that will become a destination spot for families and tourists and an asset for Athens,” Mayor Ronnie Marks said.
Officials with the city of Athens say the city council has allocated $1 million from the 2021 general fund to start the project and to match Dekko’s $250,000 grant.
The Dekko Foundation is an organization that “invests in projects that help children and youth, up to age 18, build the skills, knowledge, and character that they’ll need to travel the path toward economic freedom.”
The Limestone County Legislative Delegation awarded community grants in the amount of $28,967.50 and the Athens Ladies Civitan donated $2,500 to the project. The Civitan is also considering a second donation to help fund the project.
Local developers donated 20,000 cubic yards of dirt valued at over $1 million, and Athens crews are doing work on the site.
The initial phase of the project will include the entrance to the park from Pryor Street, the playground and a splash pad with bathrooms, and parking and shade structures. The city’s goal is to complete this initial phase by Spring 2024.
“The project will increase outdoor recreation opportunities for children and their families, giving them an area to become more physically fit and learn to socialize with members of the community,” a press release from the city said.
In future phases, Athens hopes to add a dog park, amphitheater, green space, food truck area, a trailhead for Singing River, and retail/residential spaces on the west side of the property.