Monday, June 21, 2010

Dunwoody grows by 165 acres as city takes over parks from DeKalb - AJC

By Patrick Fox for the AJC
Dunwoody took possession of 165 acres of parkland from DeKalb County on Monday, culminating a long process that stretched from the negotiating table to the Georgia Legislature.

At a mid-morning news conference held before 60 residents and city officials at Brook Run Park, Mayor Ken Wright declared ownership of the recreational property.

"We are officially in charge of our parks, our green space," he said.

Monday's action comes in the wake of legislation passed in March allowing Dunwoody to take over the parks by paying DeKalb $100 per acre. Similar measures were passed this year allowing similar transactions in Sandy Springs and other new cities in north Fulton County.

The city is in line for $7.5 million in bond money from a 2001 referendum. Wright said the city will study a master plan drawn more than a decade ago by DeKalb County to help craft a strategy for the new park system. He said the city also will seek public comment.

City council members were fairly pointed on Monday when addressing the land transfer with DeKalb County.

"One of the things that defines a city is its parks," Councilman Danny Ross said."Our parks are certainly not reflective of the way we like to maintain things. ... We intend to make this into a showplace that our community can be proud of."

Councilman John Heneghan, who lives within two blocks of Brook Run, had specific ideas in mind. He said the county has allowed most of the seven buildings at Brook Run to deteriorate and threaten public safety.

"The first priority for me is to maintain the security of the park, to close up the buildings in the back," he said. "From there, it's to provide some fast, efficient services (such as) benches and seating in the playground, which has been deficient for years."

DeKalb County had no official comment on Monday's event, but Commissioner Jeff Rader earlier had said he expected the county to sue. Rader said the county has invested $13 million in Brook Run Park without any compensation from Dunwoody.


DunDave said...

Outstanding! I love that we finally have our parks.

John Heneghan said...

People (and reporters) keep asking me what I want want for the parks and my first answer is safety and the second comes down to usability. I told someone I thought a winding multi-use path around the perimeter and through the trees of Brook Run would be an amenity that would get good use but would also help secure the park. Here is an article agreeing with my thoughts.

Councilman Ross answered one reporters request for his thoughts by saying that he'd like to see an old building (theater at Brook Run) in one park become a performing arts center. Other old buildings can - and should-be torn down he says. And in a vacant house that sits in one of the parks (Donaldson Bannister Chesnut Farm), Ross says he'd like to see a farm life museum - to demonstrate what life on the farm was like in 1857 when the house was built.

In the end, what Danny and I envision may not be what the community envisions for the limited greenspace that we have and that is why the City of Dunwoody will have a citywide master plan for the future of our parks system.