Department Grew From Park That Banned Cow Grazing
As a follow-up to last month’s article on Depot Park, I wanted to take this opportunity to share the history of the Kennesaw Parks and Recreation Department.
The city of Kennesaw has managed and operated parks as far back as 1895, though it is not clear where this earliest greenspace was located. On June 3 of that year, the City Council voted to ban cattle grazing in this park. On Dec. 6, 1899, any “public dance” was outlawed in “any of the parks or public property” in Kennesaw.
The oldest park that can be confirmed is from 1915. There are accounts of the park at the corner of Main and Cherokee streets being improved by “ladies of [the] M.E. & Baptist Churches,” who raised $110 for the upgrade. In 1939, a tennis court was added, and a tennis club was formed, with a $1 membership fee. In the late 1950s, there were plans to display the General at the park, which has been called a variety of names, including Phillip’s Legion Park, Fuller Park and the current Commemorative Park, since it was created.
Located behind City Hall, the Big Shanty Spring has been a public park since at least 1936, though accounts of picnics in the spring date back to 1886. Construction of the Kennesaw Recreation Area (now Adams Park) began in 1957, with plans for a large lake, picnic tables and ballfields. These plans, except for the lake, were carried out over the next several years. The recreation area was renamed Adams Park in 1966 in honor of the family who owned the land before the city.
At the same time, the predecessor to our modern Parks and Recreation Department was formed. It was called the Kennesaw Recreation Club, and it managed the recreation area. In the 1960s, a similar group, called the Kennesaw Recreation Board, was formed and lasted until the 1970s.
The first “recreation director” in Kennesaw was Milton “Dunk” Hood, who was hired by the city in 1965 and remained there until 1968. There seems to have been no director until 1975, when the position became a full-time role, and former Councilman Ben Robertson was hired. In 1978, Joel Daniels took over the position, followed by Doyle Gayton in 1980, Danny Jones in 1994, Doug Taylor in 2000 and the current director, Steve Roberts, in 2019.
The headquarters for the department originally was a small Adams Park building. In 1988, offices were moved to a space in the basement of City Hall that had been used as a community room for 11 years. The community room and an office moved to the Bobby Grant Center on Cherokee Street in 1997.
In the meantime, major changes had taken place at a number of Kennesaw parks. Several fields had been added to Adams Park, along with a pavilion and small amphitheater. The Kennesaw Depot had been purchased in 1962, and plans were being formulated for a new park. In 1980, a softball field was built on Moon Station Road, and it was renamed Burrell Field in 1984. (The site now is home to Kennesaw’s Public Works Department.) Luther Chalker donated land for a park off Cherokee Street in 1970, and it became known as Chalker Park. It closed in 2021, but there are plans to develop a successor in the same area. And starting in 1973, a series of small neighborhood parks were built throughout the Kennesaw area.
The building that is now the Ben Robertson Community Center was built in 1972 as a grocery store. The city purchased it in 1999 and renovated it into a community center that opened in 2004. The building was named in Robertson’s memory shortly after his death in 2007. The most recent major addition to Adams Park is the Kennesaw Recreation Center, which opened on Jan. 18, 2022.
Swift-Cantrell Park is the site of the last cotton field in Cobb County and was purchased by the city in 2004. The park opened in 2008 and has seen several significant improvements since, including the skate park in 2013, a splash pad in 2017, an inclusive playground in 2020 and a wheelchair swing in 2023.
Starting with a small 1890s park that prohibited cattle grazing, parks now dot our city with a multitude of greenspaces that all residents can enjoy. Whether it’s baseball, basketball, pottery classes or summer camps, our Parks and Recreation Department offers something for everyone.
– Andrew Bramlett is vice president of the Kennesaw Historical Society and an honorary member of the Kennesaw Cemetery Preservation Commission.