City officials ready to renovate Willis Park

Published 12:55 pm Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Willis Park is a place many people closely associate with downtown Bainbridge, so city officials are working on making the park look its best year-round.

City officials are calling it the “Willis Park Wow” project — the idea is to improve a number of aspects of the park so that citizens and visitors alike will enjoy their time there even more, City Manager Chris Hobby said.

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During the spring and summer, Willis Park is full of colorful flowers and plantings, but with south Georgia’s warm climate, city officials realized the park could be made to bloom year-round. The city contracted with Robert and Company, a consulting firm from Atlanta who has been working with the city since the 1930s, to develop a master plan for Willis Park.

“Once the plan is complete, you’ll see an infusion of colors during any season of the year,” Hobby said. “Our hope is that visitors will notice the park is colorful, well-planted and well-maintained.”

The master plan calls for enlarging the park’s existing flower beds, putting an ideal mix of seasonal plants in those beds and improving the park’s irrigation system to keep everything watered. The park’s gazebo will also be renovated: rotten wood will be replaced, a new roof will be put on it and a small green space directly in front of the green space will be covered with pavers.

The master plan for new plants and flowers in Willis Park. (Click to view full-size)

Discussion of the Willis Park project took off at the Bainbridge City Council’s retreat last spring. But with a new spring approaching, the project has gathered steam in recent weeks, according to Adrienne Harrison, the city’s communications director.

Last week, city workers removed a dying sycamore tree from the park. The council also approved a bid for a new irrigation system. Later this month, removal of existing plantings will begin and continue into March.

In March, the new irrigation system will be installed and the new plants will be delivered to Bainbridge. In April, city workers will prepare healthy topsoil for the park and put in the various plants.

“I think if you asked people around the state what they thought of when they think of our city, Willis Park is what immediately comes to mind,” Hobby said. “I think people’s perception of the park goes along with their perception of our downtown, so it’s important to give visitors and residents the best impression we possibly can.”

Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds, who previously served on the city’s Tree Committee, lent his expertise to the horticultural considerations of the plan, noting which flowers and plants grow well in Southwest Georgia and when they should be planted.