Volunteers clean up parts of former Golf and Gardens

A true grass-roots effort came into being this morning at the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame’s former botanical gardens, with 25 volunteers showing up to help activist Anthony Esposito trim down the neglected, overgrown, state-owned grounds.

 

“If you can’t contribute to our city, then what are you here for?” said Chuck Elliott, a 61-year-old military retiree who read about Mr. Esposito’s efforts in The Chronicle. “It’s like with city council. It’s easier to sit on your butt and complain than to actually get out and make a difference. That’s my attitude – put up or shut up.”

Mr. Esposito, whose group Growing Augusta the GreenWay has 50 members registered at MeetUp.com, spent the past two weeks seeking permission to enter the property, saying he would stage a protest if rebuffed.

He wasn't.

After the State Properties Commission and the Attorney General’s Office raised no objections, the golf hall’s board of directors voted unanimously in a conference call Friday morning to give the go-ahead, with a one-year right of entry.

Former Marketing Director Robyn Jarrett, who was laid off this week because of the golf hall’s lack of funds, unlocked a gate along Reynolds Street and handed out a stack of waivers to be signed.

With a cool morning breeze blowing, volunteers unearthed shoulder-high weeds by hand and tossed them into the backs of pickup trucks. They ran weed whackers over the brick walkways and pushed lawn mowers and brooms. Later in the morning, two men arrived with riding mowers, allowing Mr. Esposito to knock out the part called “the quad” around the pedestal where Bobby Jones’ bronze statute once stood, the parking lot and the mini course.

Mr. Esposito’s goal Saturday had been to take care of the areas visible from the street, bringing them in compliance with the county’s nuisance ordinance, which state property is exempt from.

Next he wants to coordinate with volunteer groups throughout the city to schedule maintenance days every other Saturday, starting June 27.

Beth Willard, 32, said she signed up for today’s cleanup on Mr. Esposito’s Facebook page, and she’ll help on future dates so long as she’s in town.

“I felt like doing my part to help out,” she said, taking a break from clearing out an old flower bed along the quad’s turnaround. “I feel like it’s an eyesore, and Augusta gets a black eye enough as it is. If we can make it a little brighter, it’s worth giving up a Saturday.”

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