A 30-acre rectangle of green that bridges the city’s historic and Victorian district, the Forsyth Park provides something for everyone. It’s a picturesque wedding site, a weekly fresh produce spot, a grassy lawn for a picnic, a canvas for an annual chalk art contest, a concert venue, a place to play pickup basketball, a 1-mile jogging loop. 

So when the partners who undertook the task of creating a master plan for the park asked for public feedback last spring, they got plenty. Those partners include The Trustees’ Garden Club, which took on the project six years ago as a gift to the city and hired Charlottesville, Va.-based landscaping architects Nelson Byrd Woltz. 

Trustees’ Garden Club is paying for the $600,000 cost of the plan. 

“The plan is not to change the character of the park,” co-chair of the Trustees’ Garden Club Forsyth Park Project Eleanor Rhangos said in an online public forum Wednesday. “But it is to preserve and where possible, restore its historic integrity, make recommendations for areas in need of improvement such as lighting and stormwater management and identify enhancements such as more bathrooms to be implemented in the years to come based on the feedback from the community.” 

The draft plan is now open for comment, which must be received by Sept. 30. The existing park and the draft plan are reproduced here and are also available at www.friendsofforsyth.org 

EXISTING, DRAFT PLANS

Existing layout of Forsyth Park. Credit: Friends of Forsyth
Draft plan for Forsyth Park. Credit: Friends of Forsyth

The plan suggests a few new elements for the park: 

● Bathrooms near the southwest corner 

● Stormwater gardens in each of the four outer corners of the open lawns.

● Addition of a children’s garden directly south of the existing Fragrant Garden. 

● Additional picnic/seating areas in the central portion of the park near the cafe.

● Enhanced lighting throughout the park. 

● A new, yet-to-be-designated monument along southern portion of the central walkway. 

Modifications to existing features include: 

● A six-foot widening of the 1.5-mile perimeter sidewalk to 14 feet to accommodate a one-way bike lane and a separate two-way pedestrian lane

● Removal of the western “big kids’” playground from its west-central position and the creation of a new playground and splash pad area on the south end. 

● Moving/replacing the bandshell and splash pad. Shifting the position of the bandshell slightly south to allow for loading and unloading equipment. Addition of electric outlets. Removal of water feature in front of stage. 

● Adding tree-root protection for trees lining the southern half of the central walkway 

The draft plan leaves largely unchanged: 

● The placement and size of the two parking lots. 

● The Rotary Club playground 

● Tennis courts 

● The north half of the park with its criss-crossing paths, canopy of trees and iconic fountain. 

The project team completed a health assessment for each tree in the park, with treatment recommendations for each tree. 

Several of the residents who participated in the online sessions Wednesday expressed relief that the current draft seems to have a “lighter touch” than did previous iterations. 

Costs of implementing any of the plan’s elements are not yet available.

“This is the draft plan,” said Project Manager Charlotte Barrow of Nelson Byrd Woltz. “We’re presenting it to the community now. We’re going to incorporate feedback from the community. We’re going to refine the plan. We’re going to send it to our cost estimator, we’re going to give them five weeks to produce construction cost estimates. And those pricing estimates will be included in the final master plan.” 

Elements of the final plan, if approved by Savannah City Council, will be implemented as priorities and funding allow. The city already has funding set aside for lighting improvements in the park and that’s likely to be among the first things implemented. Comments can be submitted directly on the Friends of Forsyth web site or at Saturday informational sessions in the park: Sept 18 and 25 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The deadline for comment is Sept. 30.

The Tide brings regular notes and observations on news and events by The Current staff.