Business & Economy Georgia Impact

Student-designed park inspired by area’s history

Residents turned out to help install plants in a new garden, part of a downtown streetscape in Hartwell, designed by UGA engineering students. Hart was chosen in April as one of four communities seeking the Archway Partnership’s Connected Resilient Community designation, which communities earn by completing economic and community development projects. (Photo by Shannah Montgomery)

The project is one of several in Hart County designed to boost tourism and create opportunities for residents

When Hartwell residents turned out in May to install plants at the site of a new downtown park, University of Georgia alumna Elizabeth Crimmins was right there alongside them in the dirt.

Crimmins, a student from Chattanooga who earned her Master of Landscape Architecture from the UGA College of Environment and Design in May, designed the Hartwell Park as part of her work as a graduate assistant with the Archway Partnership.

“The inspiration for Railroad Street Park’s design came from the site’s significant role in Hartwell’s history,” Crimmins said. “Many generations of community members have interacted with this site over time, and I wanted to create a space that allows future generations to feel connected to its history through interpretation and materiality.”

Crimmins is among a steady stream of UGA students who have traveled to Hart County in recent years to help the community with projects designed to boost tourism, increase workforce development and education opportunities, improve residents’ quality of life and prepare for growth.

UGA Alumna Elizabeth Crimmins, at right, designed the park as she was completing her Master of Landscape Architecture from the UGA College of Environment and Design and working as an Archway Partnership graduate assistant in spring 2022. (Photo by Shannah Montgomery)

Students in the Institute for Leadership Development in the Terry College of Business stepped in to create an analysis and look book of Hart County’s tourism assets and opportunities. Engineering students created an updated downtown streetscape design for Hartwell and proposed updating Hart County’s Milltown Campground from primitive camp sites to spaces where visitors can plug in their RVs.

UGA also completed a strategic plan for the Hart County Charter School System and a countywide wastewater analysis.

Downtown Hartwell has become more attractive with the addition of seven murals, all painted by Lamar Dodd School of Art students through a program called Color the World Bright.

Ultimately, the downtown plan will provide better access between retail businesses and passive green space.

The community planting drew about 30 local residents, who installed native, pollinator-friendly plants, like switchgrass, cardinal flower, coneflower and a skinny holly bush called sky pencil. The plants were made possible by generous donations from Lake Foods, a food processing company in Hartwell, which donated money for the plants. Home Depot donated supplies, including fencing, for the project.

Georgia Soil Company, in Gainesville, provided more than 4,000 pounds of soil for the project. Georgia Soil Company processes wastewater from local manufacturing facilities, and from that wastewater sources premium and organic components, creating soil and compost for commercial and residential use. The premium soil is important to the project, which is on a gravel railroad bed.

“The train depot and Depot Street have a significant place in Hartwell history, and it is great to see them being reinvigorated and becoming part of the culture of the community again,” said Bill Leard, chair of the Hart County Archway Partnership executive committee. “Archway student designs have helped make the new park possible, and it is another great testament to the community coming together and bringing in the expertise of UGA students.”

Hart County became a UGA Archway Partnership community in 2017. In April 2022, Hart was selected as a candidate for the UGA Connected Resilient Community (CRC) designation, which recognizes Georgia communities that partner with university experts to increase economic development potential. The CRC program is facilitated by the Archway Partnership, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit.