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Beulah Rucker museum looking to add outdoor touches
Aim is clear, even as progress is slow
Beulah Rucker Museum volunteer executive director Rojene Bailey talks Thursday about the need for more parking areas. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Beulah Rucker Museum and Educational Foundation leaders are looking to eventually add some ambitious, green-friendly touches to the complex off Athens Highway in Gainesville.

"Rome wasn't built in a day," said Rojene Bailey, Rucker's grandson and the center's volunteer executive director. "We need to take baby steps to get to that point, but we're working on it."

The center, opened in the early 1990s, commemorates Rucker's efforts to establish a school for the black community that continued in various forms until the late 1950s.

In addition to its historic value, the complex also offers a community center that accommodates weddings and other functions.

Plans call for removing kudzu off the driveway leading to the complex, which sits amid thick shade trees, and creating an area of green space.

Also, "we want a parking lot, but we don't want to drop something in, like asphalt and all that stuff and take away the aesthetics of the area," Bailey said.

"What we want to do is put in something like a gravel, or crushed-rock, parking lot so it won't take away from the natural beauty and (still be) big enough for 50 to 75 cars and (school) buses."

Parking now is limited mainly to grassy areas in front of the center and close to busy U.S. 129.

"It's enough room, but it's not exactly what we want. It's not in our plans," Bailey said.

An article in the museum newsletter's September/October edition says, "This is what we do not want to see at such a beautiful facility. Neither do we want to see cars parked any and everywhere."

Also on the front side of the property, the museum is considering plans for a "mini-botanical garden," Bailey said.

"We've been working with people from the extension service to give us advice," he said.

In preliminary efforts, the center has partitioned off 18 sections in the future garden area.

"What we want is for people to claim their plot," Bailey said, adding that people who step forward on the project will get a marker that identifies them and their maintenance efforts.

"You could have (the choice) of about 300 (plants) that we have to put in that particular area," he said.

"This is a beautiful space and we don't want to put up anything that's going to take away from it, like buildings or a whole bunch of asphalt."

Bailey said the center is "working with different organizations" to advance the overall project, as well as seeking grants.

"We need (the public's) help. We need money," he said.

A gymnasium is in the long-term plans.

Also, the museum is considering a small amphitheater. "My grandmother believed in outside entertainment," Bailey said.

Generally, he said he is hopeful about the museum's plans working out as they should.

"Our future is so bright, we might have to put on some shades," Bailey said.


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