Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bird aviary vs. needed roads improvements, we can’t afford it all, must have items will take priority over nice to have.

This morning I received an e-mail asking what I thought would happen with Brook Run Park as it relates to the master plan that was developed several years ago?

First, as I said yesterday the City has to officially obtain the park which may be difficult depending on how much the County wants to fight over the issue. Since it will probably be litigated I won’t jump to conclusions nor speculate as to the outcome.

For argument sake let’s say that the city does get control of Brook Run, what would happen then? First it depends if the County graciously hands over the unspent 7 million of the 11 million dollars promised to Brook Run in the parks referendum; which is pretty unlikely. Without the deed to the land and the promised bond funds, the park will most likely remain much like it is now.

The Citizens for Dunwoody, Parks Task Force was put together by a group of citizens who studied the issue and since I haven’t seen the final copy, I also won’t speculate at to what it says. That being said, here are some of my own personal ideas.

I have been inside and toured every building in the park and there are two buildings which I feel need to be torn down as soon as possible, they are the building next to the dog park and the building behind the theater. If we received money from the bond fund, having those buildings removed would probably serve us very well. The other buildings range from good (Theater, dormitory, maintenance shop) to fair (Administrative offices) therefore they just need to be maintained or improved over time.

Next with a limited parks budget after grounds maintenance, I would concentrate on small items which would make the biggest improvements to the quality of the park visit. First and foremost, I would want an adequate number of benches to be installed in the children’s adventure playground so that parents and grandparents could have a pleasurable experience while supervising the children. Next is supplying additional shaded areas as well as additional picnic tables, both of which are in very short supply. The same lack of proper seating is also an issue back in the dog park and with those two areas currently being the biggest draw to the park; that is where I believe the initial improvements should be. Additional crosswalks need to be installed at the entrances of the park and the internal roads need to be striped for bike lanes to encourage their use and to slow traffic. Finally, how are the bathrooms being maintained in the park, are they clean and appealing? If not, they should be. Installation of additional public water fountains should be explored so to encourage walking and biking to the back reaches of the park, which are currently away from such amenities. The City needs to ensure that the basic needs of people are taken care of first and from there; the nice to have items (like a bird aviary) can be discussed once the projected revenues are proven.

The city needs to start slow. We need to be fiscally conservative the first several years to ensure that we can meet our expenses. That being said we also need to use the available money wisely ensuring that we utilize Federal & State matching grants to make necessary road and transportation improvements.

As the Chairman of the Roads & Transportation Task Force, I have now become more in tuned to those needs and their related expenses. There are several transportation projects that I believe are priority improvements but I will leave that subject for another article.

Getting back to Brook Run, I believe that recreation partnerships will be a big issue in coming years. A partnership with the DeKalb County School System for joint programs between Brook Run and Peachtree Middle School should be explored ASAP. Finding uses and utility for the buildings in Brook Run should also be pushed as a priority, otherwise without use the infrastructure deteriorates. Cooperative agreements and partnerships with theater companies, garden clubs, Georgia Perimeter College, the Spruill Arts Center, Senior Service Centers, YMCA’s – all need to be explored.

The City needs to be exploring grant opportunities being offered by the business community, without looking very hard I was able to find that the Atlanta Falcons are offering assistance grants on playgrounds and athletic fields. Couldn’t Windward Hallow Park near the water works use a new playground and I believe the athletic fields at Peachtree (now part of Brook Run’s recreation strategy) could also use some major improvement? Innovative funding needs to be explored in all city departments to stretch our limited tax dollars.

Cityhood will not be easy and the status of incorporation alone will not be able to magically satisfy everyone’s wants and desires. The toughest aspect for those who decide to serve as Mayor and City Council will be learning to say “No”.

Bird Aviaries will just have to wait.

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