As a boy, Gregory Burson Sr., 62, remembers catching tadpoles in a swamp behind his grandmother’s backyard in Peoplestown. Today, where the swamp once stood is D.H. Stanton Park. With its Crayola-bright playground and solar-panel-topped archway, D.H. Stanton is one of the Atlanta BeltLine’s marquee greenspaces, but the history of the eight-acre space is not so pretty. Midcentury, the area was converted into an illegal landfill, which was hastily covered in the 1960s. In 1999 a girl was injured when the static she generated on a slide ignited methane gas seeping up from the ground.
D.H. Stanton was shut down for remediation, and not long after the playground reopened in 2002, Burson and fellow Peoplestown resident William Teasley learned that the BeltLine was coming right near the park’s edge. They campaigned relentlessly for D.H. Stanton to be included, forming Friends of Peoplestown Parks in 2005. The group created an ambitious visioning plan with Park Pride and enlisted Burson and Teasley as their BeltLine liaisons and advocates. In 2007 Burson learned the park had finally been selected as one of the project’s showcase stops.
“When the train pulled out of the station, we were on board,” says Burson, who notes that even during the troubled years, the park was a meaningful hub for Peoplestown. “We made ourselves heard. We were one of the chosen.”
This article originally appeared in our June 2015 issue.