Submitted by Anthony Lamprose
Under a blue October sky and a colorful canopy of autumn leaves, Black Rock Mountain State Park's Friends chapter, Black Rock Buddies, joined park staff in officially dedicating the Marie Mellinger Center, capping a decade-long effort to build an enclosed activity building for Georgia's highest state park.
During the ceremony, Black Rock Buddies treasurer and past president, Debbie Chisholm, recalled her efforts with Norma Campbell, the late co-founder of the Friends chapter, to persuade members of the Georgia General Assembly to support the project. "The beautiful facility we are dedicating today just shows you what one person's dream can achieve," said Chisholm, referring to Campbell's concept of building an activity building for the park. "Norma saw the need and set about finding a way to fill it," Chisholm said. "Without Norma's vision, the park would not have such a fine building. It shows us all what one person can accomplish."
Long-time Black Rock Mountain park superintendent, Anthony Lampros, also recalled the work by Chisholm and Campbell to acquire funding for the Marie Mellinger Center, named in memory of the noted botanist and staunch preservationist, a former president of the Georgia Botanical Society. "Debbie and Norma knew from the beginning that they key to funding would be the bridges they could build to members of the Legislature," said Lampros. "The ability to provide advocacy is one of the primary strengths and features of our Friends chapters. Black RockBuddies and other chapters can build relationships and open doors that would otherwise remain closed. The Marie Mellinger Center is a perfect example of what can be achieved when you have the right people in your corner."
As a team, Chisholm and Campbell approached then-state Senator Nancy Schaefer about the concept of a facility for the park and quickly sold her on its merits. "We asked Senator Schaefer for $150,000," said Chisholm. "She told us that she didn't think that was enough. Through the appropriations process, she instead sought $350,000 and had the political muscle to get it. Thank goodness she had the wisdom to adjust how much to request."
Sadly, both Campbell and Schaefer died before the Marie Mellinger Center could be completed, but their contributions to the project have been remembered. A new trail through the densely-forested mountain cove below the new facility has been named the Norma Campbell Cove Trail. A plaque on the deck overlooking the cove commemorates Campbell's efforts and recognizes Senator Schaefer's success in securing the necessary funding. During the Center's dedication ceremony, Senator Schaefer's daughter Nancy Schaefer Almoyan was on hand to help officially open the new building. "The Marie Mellinger Center is such a beautiful facility," said Almoyan. "I'm so glad mom was in a position to help make it happen."