Gerri Atkinson

Geraldine “Gerrie” Dawkins Atkinson has been active in Arlington affairs for over fifty years – and still counting. The consummate “little ’ole lady” in both appearance and demeanor, she is anything but when involved with the numerous Jacksonville and Arlington area issues she’s tackled. She was on the front lines in establishing the City’s tree and landscape protection ordinance, (she’s an unabashed “tree hugger”), and she worked tirelessly in the citizens’ campaign to limit billboards. But it was an issue very close to home that first got Gerrie involved.

My Arlington Monthly - Vol 1 No 3 Final Edition - Rev_page_13_1

In 1960, George and Geraldine (Gerrie) Dawkins Atkinson moved to Jacksonville with their two children, Nancy and George III. George Jr. worked for Atantic Coast Line RR and like several fellow railroad employees, left North Carolina for a new house in the new Arlington subdivision, Ft. Caroline Club Estates.

In the late 1960s, the subdivision’s developer, Lonnie Wurn proposed to develop the NE corner lot of Ft. Caroline and Rogero Roads as a commercial bank. Gerrie’s persistent protests attracted others to the issue – including her councilperson – and in 1971 Wurn relented and made the corner lot a neighborhood park.

Gerrie loved kids and trees, and naturally parks where the two come together. After 10 years of lobbying by Gerrie, the City purchased the corner parcel in in 1982. However, the park was barren and hot, so Gerrie planted oak trees around the park, watering and nurturing the fledging oaks for years. On one day, that care involved a confrontation with City tree trimmers, as Gerrie defiantly stood down the men and their chainsaws to preserve the park’s growing tree canopy.

Gerrie’s civic involvement grew as Arlington grew. She was one of the first members of the Greater Arlington Civic Council, and decades later would serve on the Greater Arlington Beaches CPAC, with zoning recreation issues being her passion. She was retired from the City’s Public Library System, and has sang for decades in the church choir at Arlington United Methodist Church, where she and her husband George are long time members.

In 2008, the Jacksonville City Council honored Gerri for her advocacy in support of neighborhood parks, and specifically her role in the acquisition and maintenance of the Fort Caroline Playground, by renaming the playground what everybody had been calling it for years – “Gerrie’s Park”. A surprise ceremony unveiled the park’s new signage and name, all under the still-spreading canopy of the trees she had planted.

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