Long-term plan for parking

After losing some of the very limited parking available on nearby property, the church congregation made a decision to install semi-permeable surface on church-owned property to allow for continued ministry in the future.

Join us for a meeting at 717 Oconee St. this Saturday at 2 p.m. to learn about the plan. Here is the letter that we sent to our neighbors recently.

Dear neighbors,

We, at Oconee Street United Methodist Church, are embarking on a project that will allow us to continue our mission and ministry in Athens for years to come. As you know, parking is sometimes a challenge on Carr’s Hill. The church has for years been able to park on property across the street, but we do not own it. Since the owner is converting that building to apartments, we will lose those 30 parking spaces in the very near future and must find another solution.

Essentially, we hope to relocate two houses from church-owned property and install a semi-permeable surface that will allow us to meet our parking needs. As a member of this community, we want to share with you our priorities and explain how, facing the need for more infrastructure, we are working to live up to our ideals.

We care about Carr’s Hill.

Oconee Street UMC has been on Carr’s Hill for more than 100 years. In 1903, the congregation moved its building to the current location and when the church burned in 2013, we made a decision to rebuild here and commit to the neighborhood we consider home. The church dedicated the sanctuary two years later, and the architect won awards for maintaining the historic nature of the building.

We care about the environment.

Oconee Street members are cyclists and recyclers. We want to protect the natural environment and leave as small a footprint as we can. That’s why the church is planning to use a semi-permeable surface to reduce stormwater runoff and allow rainwater to absorb into the ground.

We care about affordable housing.

In keeping with the biblical admonition to care for the poor, much of our mission at Oconee Street involves partnering with historically marginalized groups to help bring social justice. We are concerned about the supply of affordable housing in Athens and were able to find a new owner to take the house at 205 Georgia Drive, which we donated (along with the appliances) to become affordable housing in a nearby neighborhood. The church hopes to find a new owner for the house at 215 Georgia Drive, as well.

We care about ministry.

Oconee Street UMC is a small church of about 150 people. In addition to worship services, prayer and study groups and fellowship activities, we have hosted Our Daily Bread (Athens’ soup kitchen), U-Lead Athens (which provides college prep support to Athens-area students whose families face immigration challenges), racial and immigrant justice programs, and professional counseling for people who can’t afford to pay, among other programs. All of these programs require parking availability throughout the week.

The decision to build a parking lot has required a lot of discussion, study and prayer over two years’ time. We want to continue to be a light on Carr’s Hill and make wise decisions that will allow this ministry to continue for another 100 years. We will do everything we can to keep you informed of this process and answer questions about the plans.

We invite everyone who’s interested to come to an open house meeting at 2 p.m. on Saturday June 22 at 717 Oconee Street.  We’ll have food, and a representative from our architect Koons Environmental Design will be there along with church leaders to answer questions and hear concerns.
To find out more, look for updates on our website (www.oconeestreetumc.org ) and Facebook page. Or, email Chad Clark, the church member coordinating the project, at cantclark@yahoo.com or call him at (706) 248-7481. Thank you for your time.