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This longtime community park is now a Gainesville city park
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Gainesville resident Harvey Rooks visits HH Dean Memorial Park at a triangle shaped lot at Northside Drive and Ridgewood Avenue Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. Rooks once lived next to the park which was donated to the Gainesville Friends of the Parks Inc. to be administered in trust by the North Georgia Community Foundation, Inc. which Rooks is treasurer. - photo by Scott Rogers

Nestled in Gainesville’s Ridgewood community is an 87-year-old triangular park that has had a lot of community investment over the years.

H.H. Dean Memorial Park is named after H.H. Dean, a former army colonel, prominent political figure and developer in the city during the mid-20th century. 

The park was deeded to the Northside Garden Club on Nov. 24, 1933. 

However, as past presidents of the Northside Garden Club came and went over the ensuing decades, Harvey Rooks found himself in charge of the park’s maintenance for the better part of 20 years.

Maintenance of the park, undertaken by various members of the Ridgewood neighbors, included grass-clipping, hanging signage and occasionally dusting off the park’s main feature, a small concrete-slab bench.

“After a while, when presidents of the Garden Club started aging out, we decided as a community to do upkeep on the park and keep it looking nice,” Rooks said. “It just became something in the community that we looked after.”

After decades of being taken care of by Ridgewood residents, the 2.3-acre plot is now officially a city park after Rooks transferred rights to the neighborhood park in December to the city of Gainesville.

The park was appraised at a value of $52,900, and $30,305 from deedholder North Georgia Community Fund was also deposited to the city to offset the maintenance of the parcel.

The park will continue to operate as a public park and Gainesville city manager Bryan Lackey said the first steps are to enter H.H. Memorial Park into the park’s system and city maintenance schedule.

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A pedestrian walks a dog past HH Dean Memorial Park at Northside Drive and Ridgewood Avenue Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. The park was donated to the Gainesville Friends of the Parks Inc. to be administered in trust by the North Georgia Community Foundation, Inc. - photo by Scott Rogers

“This park has become a fixture for the folks in the Ridgewood community for some time and it is (one of) a nice few passive parks that we want to maintain,” he said. “It would have been a shame if down the road there wasn’t anyone there to maintain it besides Mr. Rooks.”

Lackey said there are no immediate plans to build anything on the park, but he said the city could survey the Ridgewood residents on future additions. 

“Initially, we’re just going to work (the park) into our Parks and Recreation system and align it with the maintenance of our other parks,” he said. “I’m sure somewhere down the line we could engage the community on what they would like to have there.”

Rooks had brought the matter to the city’s attention a year ago, and Lackey said that the city wanted to ensure that the title to the property was cleared.

The 1933 deed established continual ownership of the property to the Northside Garden Club.

“Because of the nature of a community group that had a claim to the property, we just wanted to make sure we worked through the title issues,” Lackey said.

After decades of both family and community investment into the park, Rooks, who turns 88 later this month, is glad the park’s maintenance is in the city’s hands.

“I’m just glad to get (the park) over to the city and (it’s) not jumping from person to person or having no one at all to take care of it,” he said. “It’s been a part of this community for a long time and it’s good to see the city expressing interest in maintaining it.”

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A pedestrian passes by HH Dean Memorial Park at Northside Drive and Ridgewood Avenue Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. The park was donated to the Gainesville Friends of the Parks Inc. to be administered in trust by the North Georgia Community Foundation, Inc. - photo by Scott Rogers
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