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Sandy Creek Park Oral Histories: Nancy Smith, July 13, 2005

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:01 - Introduction / Education and early jobs

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Partial Transcript: This is Sarah Duncan, interviewing Nancy Blunt Smith.

Segment Synopsis: Smith talks about studying biology at Greensboro College in North Carolina, working for the Greensboro Natural Science and Zoo post-graduation, and moving to Los Angeles for a position as marine education director at University of Southern California. She reflects on the community nature center movement started by John Ripley, and how she became involved in the movement.

Keywords: Greensboro College; Greensboro, North Carolina; John Ripley; Los Angeles, California; Natural Science for Youth Foundation; community nature center movement; marine education

00:02:21 - Starting to work for the Sandy Creek Nature Center

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Partial Transcript: It looked like there was quite a bit of turnover in the nature center management before you came here.

Segment Synopsis: Smith discusses the challenge of working as the director of the Sandy Creek Nature Center, including balancing a deficit, managing group dynamics, and defining a common vision among various park stakeholders. Smith also reflects on the behind-the-scenes work of community leaders in mobilizing support for the integration of the nature center into Sandy Creek Park.

Keywords: May Anne Hodgson; Sandy Creek Nature center; community involvement; community leaders; group dynamics; interpersonal mediation

00:08:56 - Becoming director of Sandy Creek Park

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Partial Transcript: When did you officially start with the park, do you remember?

Segment Synopsis: Smith discusses issues of budgeting, use of inmate labor in building the park, and pressure from the county government to open the park to the public. She also talks about the fast learning curve she experienced in taking over management of the newly-opened park.

Keywords: George Chandler; budget; inmate labor; park management; resource park

00:16:27 - Impetus for creating Sandy Creek Park

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Partial Transcript: What did this area look like?

Segment Synopsis: Smith discusses the appearance of the land before park construction began. She also reflects on the public pressure of Athens environmentalists who advocated against the channelization of Sandy Creek and for the preservation of the watershed. Smith also discusses the advocacy of Sandy Creek Nature Center director, Alma Walker, for the creation of a dam spillway.

Keywords: Alma Walker; endangered species; environmental advocacy; public pressure; spillway

00:26:06 - Funding for the park / Latter stages of construction

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Partial Transcript: It was all part of the same grant application, I think, from SCS.

Segment Synopsis: Smith discusses the grant application from the Soil and Conversation Services for the creation of the dams for watershed management. She discusses the budget for park construction and the delayed federal approval of the grant application. She describes the four target areas in building the dams and mentions that Sandy Creek was the last of three dams built. Smith mentions the find of the remains of a Cherokee village on the land of the park.

Keywords: Cherokee village artifacts; Soil Conservation Services; archaeology; dam construction; federal approval process; grant funding; watershed management

00:32:29 - Challenges in managing the park

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Partial Transcript: How big a staff did you have when it opened?

Segment Synopsis: Smith talks about being understaffed during the initial years of operation. She talks about the maintenance work, leveling of the ball fields, and planting the park. Smith also describes problems in landscaping the park due to the poor quality of the topsoil.

Keywords: ball fields; maintenance work; park landscaping and management; topsoil; understaffed

00:39:43 - Balance between recreation versus resource park

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Partial Transcript: It seems like there sort of a lot of push-pull between the recreation folks and the resources folks.

Segment Synopsis: Smith discusses balancing the recreation versus resource protection goals of the park and talks about the push-pull between park planners and the Athens-Clarke County government. She comments on the profit motive and the decreased county funding for the park over the years.

Keywords: decreased funding; profit; recreation; resource park

00:49:38 - Public use versus ecosystem integrity

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Partial Transcript: When you talk about resources, part of that seems seems to be recreation hiking within the resources.

Segment Synopsis: Smith discusses the wildlife and resource conservation of the park and the importance of the park and the connecting greenway in maintaining a functioning ecosystem. Smith also reflects on finding the balance between serving the public use of the park and maintaining ecosystem integrity.

Keywords: ecological corridor; ecosystem; federal funding; greenway; public use; statistics

01:00:26 - Advertising the park to visitors

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Partial Transcript: Speaking of statistics, what sort of users were originally envisioned for the park?

Segment Synopsis: Smith discusses the challenges of attracting visitors to the park in the years after its opening. She describes the types of advertising used and the types of park visitors in general. Smith also comments on state financial and staff support of the park in its first years of operations.

Keywords: advertising; park attendance; state support; visitors

01:13:05 - County-federal relationship / Park design flaws

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Partial Transcript: One thing I'm kind of wondering about..

Segment Synopsis: Smith discusses the benefits and drawbacks of the the working relationship between the county and the federal government in regards to the park. She describes the biased selection process of the landscape architect in the initial stages of park construction and its results in a compromised design for the park.

Keywords: county and federal relationship; design flaws; funding; non-functionality; politics

01:22:18 - Government unification / Attitudes toward resource parks

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Partial Transcript: Speaking of the other side of the lake, it looked to me from some maps and stuff, that some land was purchased on the other side...

Segment Synopsis: Smith talks about the county's purchase of Cook's Estate, the difficulty of maintaining it, and the failed plans to start a summer camp on the property. She also comments on the government unification of Athens and Clarke County and its consequences. Smith comments on the development-oriented attitude towards resources parks and how that impacted managing the park.

Keywords: Cook's Estate; development; government unification; park maintenance

01:29:27 - Government support and Park security

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Partial Transcript: I suppose that at the height of the staff and the money that was being put into this park, what was so successful?

Segment Synopsis: Smith discusses government support and good security as elements which contribute to the success of a park, and analyzes how they are applied in the model of the national parks. She discusses the issues of security, how it relates to the lack of park patrols and a law enforcement presence in Sandy Creek, and its possible future consequences.

Keywords: government support; law enforcement; national parks; safety and security

01:38:30 - Maintenance and budgeting

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Partial Transcript: At the height of the staff in here, how big of a staff did you have and what did they do?

Segment Synopsis: Smith discusses challenges of a limited county budget allowance and how that affected the maintenance of the park. She reflects on the government philosophy of new construction rather than maintenance of existing facilities and the challenge of an uninformed public. Smith also talks about the significance of the creation of a volunteer program at the Sandy Creek Nature Center.

Keywords: SPLOST; budgeting; maintenance; park staff; planned obsolescence; volunteer program

01:52:32 - Government advocates for the park

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Partial Transcript: When you talked about specific people in government having the courage to go out and push something, who here really did that?

Segment Synopsis: Smith recounts public government figures who advocated for the creation and financial support of the park. She describes her close working relationship with different people in the county departments, the advice she learned from them, and the way they revolutionized public management for the county.

Keywords: George Chandler; Jim Holland; Lauren Cole; county commissioner; management style; political change; professionalism; public management

02:00:54 - Experience of working in government

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Partial Transcript: And when you say professional, that is opposed to the old boy network?

Segment Synopsis: Smith recounts the political transformation towards professionalism in the government that she experienced while working as director of the park. She also discusses the merging of the different park departments into the Department of Leisure Services and the breakdown of the working relationship between department heads and commissioners in the local government. Smith also comments on women in government.

Keywords: Department of Leisure Services; department consolidation; merging; old boy network; political shift; professionalism; resignation; sexual discrimination; transformation; women in government

02:11:47 - Working around government limits

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Partial Transcript: So it seems to me that, from what you say, over time it went from almost the most ideal situation that I've heard of in a local government...

Segment Synopsis: Smith discusses the political transition that changed the working relationships within county government in the 1990s. She talks about the challenges in making changes in a jurisdiction that was very top-down and the ways in which she bypassed this by advocating to non-profit groups to put pressure on the government.

Keywords: advocacy; government jurisdiction; nonprofit organization; political pressure; top-down government

02:21:57 - Opening up a nursery / Reflection on the past and future of park and county government

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Partial Transcript: After you did resign, you ended up starting a native plant industry.

Segment Synopsis: Smith talks about her experience of opening a native plan nursery after her resignation from the park. She also reflects on her regrets and hopes concerning the park and the future of the Athens-Clarke County government.

Keywords: personal reflection; regrets; revisiting the park; small business