In less than 30 days, LaFayette, Ga., should have a new park — complete with a caboose.
City officials gathered Friday for a groundbreaking ceremony at the park site near the railroad tracks east of Chattanooga Street between Patten and Villanow streets.
Using state tourism grant matching money, city workers and volunteers plan to fix up a walking trail and flood-damaged bridge, make other improvements and then have a crane place a retired railroad caboose on a set of train tracks.
"It's going to be a pretty neat little park," Downtown Development Authority Chairman Michael Lovelady said. "It's going to have some playground equipment, picnic tables and, of course, the caboose."
The caboose had been on display on the turntable at Magnusson Yard in downtown Summerville, Ga. But it was the property of the Walker County Chamber of Commerce, so Summerville officials let LaFayette take it.
As a condition of the state tourism grant, LaFayette needs to get the park work done by June 1, Lovelady said.
He said the deadline should not be a problem.
"We have some groups that are volunteering," he said.
The city had planned to have an old Central of Georgia Railway baggage car on display alongside the caboose, but that's not happening.
"The baggage car, we never could get that ... worked out," Lovelady said.
Mayor Neal Florence was among the dignitaries at the groundbreaking.
"It's going to be a good thing," Florence said of the park. "We're trying to develop that area [of town] to be tourist friendly and make it look better."
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.