Volunteer's Dedication Preserves Green Space

Calvin Sims' childhood in Rockmart gave him a great appreciation of the great outdoors

Calvin Sims can’t help but remember his past as he envisions the future of the

Sims grew up on a farm in the small town of Rockmart, and from an early age witnessed the power of working the land.

“My parents were serious gardeners,” Sims said. “That’s how we ate. They grew everything - sweet potatoes, white potatoes, onions, peanuts, all the leafy vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash. Everything we needed, they grew.”

Perhaps that’s why being the volunteer director of the recently-opened green space comes, well, quite naturally to Sims.

A retired diesel mechanic for MARTA, Sims has worked tirelessly over the last few years to make sure the 9.2 acre preserve near his home in unincorporated Stone Mountain stays the way it is: fairly undisturbed, keeping its 120-year-old farmhouse, garage, guest house, log cabin and its towering productive trees intact. The space includes a community garden where peppers, lettuce and other vegetation are thriving. Hens housed on the property lay fresh eggs.

Once privately-owned, the home’s former residents put the ‘for sale’ sign up in 2006 --- coincidentally, this was soon after Sims spoke with a neighborhood leader about the community possibly buying the property.

Sims had never even seen the space at that point. But since he lived in the area, he recognized some familiar sounds from his childhood.

“When I would ride out of the subdivision...I could hear the [farm] animals, and I just knew something was back there,” Sims said.

It was the deceased matriarch’s wish that the land that held their old family home, which was once a working farm, remain a green space, Sims learned from her daughters selling the property.

The green space vision had support from volunteers, several community and political leaders, and DeKalb County eventually purchased the property.

Sims brings to his volunteer role a wealth of education and history of community involvement. He has a bachelor’s degree in economic development, completed a fellowship at Harvard in faith-based and community economic development, and holds a master’s degree in public administration. He is president of the Chapman Mill/Redan Park homeowners’ association and founder and board chair of the federal tax exempt Chapman Mill/Redan Park Community Development Corporation.

Sims said he is committed to making the space a place where schoolchildren can learn about the environment, where families can relax and take in the vast greenery, and gardeners can grow organic vegetables - experiences he had with his parents and seven siblings.

The many plans for the space include renovating the main house and working with Fernbank Science Center on education programs.

“When children develop a good understanding of what nature is all about and how all this happened it gives them more appreciation and I believe it helps shape better values,” Sims said. “I believe, based on my own personal experience, an appreciation of the environment helps shape positive values in people, especially young people.”

On Friday Oct. 28, 2011 the Chapman’s Mill/Redan Park Community will host an open house at the Redan Nature Preserve and Environmental Education Center located at 5338/5354 Redan Road, from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Every one is welcome, and tours will be provided for guests at no cost. No pets please.


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