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Local individuals, groups install bluebird boxes at Veteran’s Memorial Park
Bluebird boxes
(left to right) Dawson County Senior Services Director Dawn Johnson, Dawson County Parks and Rec Director Matt Payne, Lions Club member Jim Purdy, Bill Hess and Lions Club member Jim Buckley stand next to one of the six recently installed bluebird boxes at Veteran’s Memorial Park. - photo by Erica Jones

Veteran’s Memorial Park in Dawsonville now has six bluebird boxes scattered around the park, thanks to the ideas and effort put in by several local individuals and groups. 

According to Dawson County Senior Services Director Dawn Johnson, she was first approached about the idea of putting in bluebird boxes by local man Bill Hess, one of the senior center’s “Meals on Wheels” volunteers who has been helping deliver meals for 23 years. 

“I’ve been building bird boxes for 25 years or so and I always look for places to put them,” Hess said. “There’s grassy areas here, and when I was walking I was thinking this is a great place with all that grass cause bluebirds need a lot of grass, so that’s when I started thinking about this.” 

Johnson said that she loved Hess’s idea, so she passed the idea on to Dawson County Parks and Rec Director Matt Payne. Payne also loved the idea, and was excited about the prospect of adding the bluebird boxes to one of the county’s parks. 

“Anything that we can add that is gonna bring any kind of extra smiles to people is what we’re looking for,” Payne said. “Recreation isn’t just ball fields and playgrounds, it’s for everybody to enjoy the outdoors, and anything we can bring in like that is a huge plus for us especially when it’s volunteers that help do it.” 

Payne offered to help with the project, so the county mounted six poles in the park to put the boxes on. Hess had already built six bird boxes, so he decided to reach out to another local group which he had previously been a part of, the Dawson County Lions Club, to ask for help installing them. Two members of the club, Jim Buckley and Jim Purdy, agreed to help and spent a morning installing the boxes on the tops of the poles. 

“We had to make the little brackets out of rolled-up metal,” Purdy, who has been renovating houses for 20 years, said. “And we used those to attach them to the poles.” 

Buckley said that as they were installing the boxes, he and Purdy had several people walk by on the trail and ask about the project they were working on. 

“We were out here at nine or 10 in the morning putting the boxes up, and we had people come by and ask us what we’re doing,” Buckley said. “One lady I remember asked what we were up to and we told her putting in bluebird boxes, and she said ‘wow that’s really cool!’”

According to Johnson, Veteran’s Memorial is the perfect park to install the boxes because of the number of community members who come out to walk the park’s trails and will go past the boxes every day. 

“This park has a lot of walkers during the day, and they’re not just seniors, they’re of all ages,” Johnson said. “Especially now there’s a lot of people working from home and they can set their own schedule so you see people of all ages out walking, so when they do that they can see what’s going on.” 

Hess said that, in the end, his goal in building the boxes and distributing them to public places like Veteran’s Memorial Park is to share the joy that something as simple as watching a bluebird can bring to him. 

“When I get up in the morning, I look at my bluebirds and that bluebird of happiness makes my day,” Hess said. “There’s so much about bluebirds that makes you feel good — as you get older, you gotta look at things in life and see where you can find happiness, and to me, bluebirds are one of the ways I get my happiness.”