In the News

Family's Gift to Become Park in Damascus

DAMASCUS — In its efforts to revitalize what has long been an impoverished region of Southwest Georgia, the economic development organization, Early County 2055, has called on current and past residents to lend a helping hand.

Originated and funded by former Early County resident Charles Rice through his Atlanta-based Charles and Catherine B. Rice Foundation, Early County 2055 has steadily spearheaded projects of impressive growth in the community.

Another native family stepped up to the plate for their former hometown recently when Dothan, Ala., resident James McDowell's family donated a three-lot parcel of land that will be used to create a park and recreation area in the heart of this tiny community.

McDowell, whose cousin Heath McDowell is mayor of Damascus, and his wife, Ann, gave the land — located on Joe Brian Street at the corner of Georgia Highways 45 and 200 — with the understanding that it would be used as a city park for recreation activities.

"We are excited about receiving this wonderful gift; it will be a beautiful addition to the downtown area and provide the community with a lovely park," said Heath McDowell, who noted that the land had been in his family for the better part of a century. "This is a big step for Damascus and something that would have never happened without the generosity of James and Ann McDowell and Early County 2055.

"Everyone will enjoy this greenspace, which will be named McDowell Park, and it will complement our town's beautification efforts."

The tract of land donated by the McDowell family was once the site of a garage and gas station, but had been vacant for the past decade. Early County 2055 donated the funds to clean up the property.

"Everyone is thrilled about this gift and appreciates the generosity of the McDowells," Lisa Collins, director of economic development for Early County 2055, said. "EC 2055 is about cultivating communities together and that includes all communities that are located in Early County.

"Part of our economic revitalization program calls for removing dilapidated buildings and replacing them with something useful to the community ... a new building, a park, a playground. The city of Damascus needed the funds to clean up the donated property and that falls under our mission."

EC 2055 began two years ago as a major county effort to create a healthy business climate for the area. Now in Phase 2, the development group is focusing on a five-year capital campaign to stimulate economic growth through, among other initiatives, new job creation, increased retail shopping options and downtown restoration.