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Tiger Town Park Reflects Spirit of Elba

The old Elba High School façade stands at the end of Yelverton and West Collier streets just a short walk from the heart of downtown Elba.  The thick pillars frame doors that once served as an entrance to the school now serve as a memorial to what was lost in a Pea River flood.  But the entrance stands for much more today.

A space that could have been destroyed and demolished, or just left abandoned following a series of devastating floods, has instead been rejuvenated and repurposed. What once led to hallways in the school now opens into an amphitheater.

What used to house classrooms, offices, teachers and students at Elba High is now the entrance to Tiger Town Park and serves as a symbol of the resilience and innovation the people of Elba have come to master. Today, on the campus of the old high school, a menagerie of repurposed structures and spaces greets visitors.

Tiger Town Park itself was constructed in September 2006 as a joint effort of many community members. Individuals, civic organizations, and businesses sponsored the building and installation of the playground equipment, and the names and handprints of sponsors decorate the space.

Complete with slides, castles, misters, and tire swings, Tiger Town Park gives Elba’s smallest citizens a safe place to play and gives many of their parents a sense of renewed pride in at the place where they made their own childhood memories.

Behind the playground, the former EHS hallways have been renovated into apartments. In 2009, local business owner Jim Holley purchased school buildings slated to be demolished and created the aptly named Tiger Town Apartments. Housing, especially rental properties, have been hard to come by at some points of Elba’s history.

Holley was able to completely refurbish and transform the old classrooms into full apartments in the center of Elba. This renovation provided renters a home in the bones of a building that already held so much meaning.

Another transformation came when the old high school gym was converted into a recycling center. The building itself has been recycled and now houses multiple bins for paper, plastic, cardboard, and glass. People from all over Elba drive to the large domed building to recycle their trash and do their part to help the environment.

In my four weeks in Elba, I have come to learn that people here feel an obligation to do what they can. The sense of community runs deep, and everyone is genuinely pleased to help and support each other. When floods ruined the school that so many loved, that feeling of pride remained. While most of the physical structures had to be removed, Elba residents brought new life to space.

Tiger Town Park serves as a great space for community events. The playground, pavilion, facade, and grassy spaces provide the perfect place for birthday parties, dates, church events, family reunions and other community activities. Children and adults alike have memories here, whether it was tenth grade English in 1980 or Restoration 154’s Teen Beach Movie and water slide event this past week.

The innovation and community spirit of Elba is personified in this amalgamation of spaces, making up a place with a personality of its own. To some it is a home, to others a place to run and play. Some come to decrease their environmental footprint and others to reminisce on what once was. But all come together here to celebrate everything Elba is.

Tags: Elba

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