By Morgan Bryce
A new park is being constructed in Opelika, located at the block of North Railroad Avenue and North Fifth Street.
Slated for completion in early September, the park is a gift to the city from J. and Ginger Stern of the Henry J. Stern Family Foundation.
Following Henry’s death in 2014, J. said he and Ginger inherited their father’s mission, a mission of bettering and enhancing Opelika for generations to come.
“We’re doing things a little more publicly than he did, because we want to honor mom (Roslyn) and dad. That’s why we did the railroad car at Monkey Park and that’s why we’re doing this … just to try and help and give back to a community that has been good to our family.”
The property, which formerly housed the city’s social security building, was purchased by the Sterns last year.
“Ginger had been wanting to do a dog park and a park … we were trying to figure out what to do, and when I saw it (for sale), I just said, ‘that’s the place,’” J. said. “It evolved from being a dog park to being a people park with a dog feature, just a place to go have lunch, read a book and let your dog run around.”
Demolition of the property began in February, and bulldozers are currently smoothing the surface of the park for grass seed planting in coming weeks.
Morgan Beadles, an Opelika resident and the curator of Auburn University’s Davis Arboretum, is the park’s landscape architect.
Once completed, the park will have walking paths, leash-free, fenced-in dog park, pavilion for picnicking, ‘little free library’, and caboose from the old train depot relocated and displayed prominently in front.
Ginger said the park’s size and location will be perfect for downtown visitors, who can easily access it and use it as a place to unwind and relax.
“It’s close enough to a lot of the downtown, where people can just walk over there if you just need some peace. You can go over there and walk around and enjoy yourself in downtown Opelika with a green space that’s not really available right now,” Ginger said.
Some park details are being finalized, but the Sterns said they expect most of it to be completed by mid-September.
For more information about the park, the Sterns encourage those interested to contact the Observer to help connect to them. The office is located at 225 S. 8th St, and can be reached at (334) 749-8003.