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Across Atlanta, 10 surprising facets of outdoor recreation

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The ITP landscape is dotted with recreational wonders and options not everyone is privy to—until now

A photo of downtown’s iconic ATL shaped slide.
Downtown’s iconic “ATL” slide ... thanks, Canada!
Josh Green, Curbed Atlanta

Beneath its verdant canopy, the City of Atlanta counts nearly 400 parks under its purview, ranging from the iconic meadows of Piedmont Park to where-is-that obscurity.

The City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation maintains more than 5,000 acres of greenspace—a lot to keep up with. And fertile ground for juicy trivia.

For this Play Week 2018 installment, we tapped the brains of parks and rec officials to dig up interesting—and hopefully useful—recreation-related facts that most Atlantans might not know.

Have a gander:

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Woodruff Park’s famous “ATL” was a Canadian’s brainchild.

Beloved by anyone with Atlanta pride, the alphabetical playground icon (pictured above) at the north end of Woodruff Park is the work of designer Jeff Santos of Coquitlam, British Columbia, whose concept won an international design competition in 2010.

Santos rendering via Central Atlanta Progress

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Intown mountain-biking exists.

An initial phase of singe-track at Southside Sports Complex Park.
singletracks.com

The Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation has added is in the process of adding nearly six miles of mountain-biking paths—including a bridge over Poole Creek—to the initial 1.3-mile loop at Southside Sports Complex Park near the airport.

It’s the city’s first public mountain-bike course built within the Interstate 285 loop.

CLARIFICATION: The recently finished bridge project will act as an entryway to the additional 5.8-mile bike path, which is not open.

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New (and free) exercise stations have arrived.

Piedmont Park.
Josh Green, Curbed Atlanta

Most tried-and-true intowners have spotted people sweating off the pounds at free outdoor gyms within popular green spaces such as Piedmont Park (above) and Kirkwood’s Coan Park (below).

Now, the city’s added exercise equipment to Thomasville Park (off Moreland Avenue, near Starlight Six Drive-In Theatre) and the Peachtree Park Nature Trail in Buckhead.

Coan Park.
Josh Green, Curbed Atlanta

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Chastain Park could have Atlanta’s coolest slides.

Image courtesy of Chastain Park Conservancy

Sure, the wheelchair-accessible treehouse, disc-shaped “oodle” swings, climbable spider web, drums, chimes, piano, and gardens of boulders are cool. But Chastain Park boasts two roller-slides built for racing!

It’s all the result of a 2016 playland project that cost $2.8 million—funded, in part, by deep-pocketed donors like Publix and Chick-fil-A—that tapped kids as consultants on what the finished product should be. It replaced a smaller, outdated facility, though the best bits of the old playground were retained and reused.

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But don’t discount the eastside mega-slides.

Lake Claire Park’s enhanced playground.
Curbed Atlanta

As the city’s parks and rec heads point out, some of the largest slides in Atlanta’s inventory can be found in Springvale Park—tucked deep within Inman Park, beside a duck pond—and Lake Claire Park, which underwent an overhaul last year.

In other slide news, under-construction Armand Park near Lindbergh will have an embankment slide, as will the 11-acre Home Depot Backyard project in the geometrical shadows of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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Many more soccer fields are coming.

Soccer in the Streets

In 2016, downtown’s Five Points MARTA Station made waves by opening a mini soccer pitch, heralded as the world’s first soccer field in a transit station. That was just the beginning.

The City of Atlanta, in partnership with the US Soccer Foundation, will be opening nine mini-soccer pitches throughout the city, beginning with a ribbon-cutting July 30th at Anderson Park.

Find the city’s other new soccer options at:

  • Adams Park (two pitches)
  • Center Hill Park (one pitch)
  • Isabella Gates Webster Park (one)
  • South Bend Park (one)
  • South Side Sports Complex (two)
  • Thomasville Park (one pitch)

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Atlanta’s first organic wood park is underway.

The playground’s previous appearance.
Tagatlanta.com

In Morningside, an under-construction project at Noble Park (1710 Noble Drive) will deliver Atlanta’s very first organic wood playground—and the first built of wood in the city in nearly two decades.

The Organic Wood Robinia Playground, as it’s called, will feature “untreated natural organically grown wood ... sealed with a water-based wood sealer and stain,” city officials relayed.

More trivia: A large black gum tree in Noble Park scored the Park Pride Big Tree Award in 2001, measuring more than eight feet in circumference and 73 feet tall, with a canopy spreading out 80 feet, per the neighborhood association.

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Atlanta has public pollinator gardens.

That’s right. These little Shangri-Las for butterflies and bees help stabilize the natural environment. Find them at Grove Park, Welsh Street Park, Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Gilliam Park, and Four Corners Park.

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Four Corners Park has one of the most unique art playscapes around.

A few blocks south of the former Turner Field, Four Corners Park (30 Haygood Avenue SE) counts one of Atlanta’s most interesting and functional installments of playground art.

An elevated playhouse inside a heart, it’s a 1993 work of iron and wood by Eleanor Hand, titled In Search of Awe.

Per parks and rec officials, Hand’s collaborative style invites participants to “experience the magic of the creative process and the celebration of the community.” For the design, Hand engaged local kids in a series of art classes, with each child creating a model for a park sculpture. The community selected a favorite—made by Isaia Jackson, age 15—and Hand transformed her model into a piece that still makes a statement.