By Mary Stakes

Seeing Green tour participants walk the labyrinth behind the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support as part of the tour of Athens Regional Community Park.

Seeing Green tour participants walk the labyrinth behind the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support as part of the tour of Athens Regional Community Park.

Once again this past fall, streets in Athens were lined with walkers, periodically stopping, clustered in groups, listening and looking, looking, and looking. Yes, it was the Athens Heritage Walks series in progress.

Two new walks were on the agenda for 2014 while another three walks were the focus of a UGA School of Environment and Design Circle Gallery exhibit. A sixth walk extended through a very old neighborhood to take in much of its historic district. For the more than 100 participants in the heritage walks, it was a rich offering.

The Seeing Green walk examined neighborhood green spaces and their relevance. The walk visited a range of parks: long-established areas with planned programming, contemplative spaces designed to soothe, a nascent park about to become a reality, and a space developed as a peace offer partnership. The University Drive walk detailed the history of the early 20th century street with its eclectic mix of architecture and many ties to the University of Georgia. A UGA exhibit that documented their formation and put them in historical context enhanced tours of three historic Athens cemeteries—Old Athens, Gospel Pilgrim, and Oconee Hill. A visit to Dearing Street took walkers on an extended tour of this early Athens neighborhood where change has been the norm. The district was home to not only many prominent Athens families, but also the first botanical garden in the South.

The ACHF Heritage Walks, begun in 2009, are guided walking tours of historic places that celebrate the unique architecture, culture, and history of each site. They are led by guides whose sense of place and love of history opens up the area and brings the neighborhood to life. If your neighborhood deserves the treatment of an Athens Heritage Walk, contact Amy Kissane.