Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Managing Brookrun Skatepark

Below is a string of my e-mail's & comments regarding the operating policies of the Skate Park that were posted on my message board.

From: Dunwoody North Civic Association
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 11:16 PM
To: 'mike_d'
Cc: 'Billups Jr., Marvin F'; 'Drew, Marilyn Boyd'; ; 'Swink, Kristie N.'
Subject: RE: Brook Run Skate Park


Though I have a webpage dedicated to Brook Run's skate park, I do not work for the county who is building the facility and will ultimately be responsible for its operation. I (as well as the many local residents I represent) am also very interested in knowing when the skate park will open, its procedures regarding the hours of operation, the level of staffing, pricing for entry, use & volume of the audio system, the required use of safety equipment, light spillage onto the residences on Peeler Road, rental cost for the events room, use of the building’s concession area and/or Pro Shop as well as the overall quality of the landscaping.

The best people to talk to regarding this matter would be Ms. Marilyn Boyd Drew, Parks Director or Mr. Marvin Billups, Asst Parks Director. I am aware that the Dunwoody Homeowners Association requested a meeting with Ms. Drew some time ago to discuss the skate park as well as the Brook Run facility in general but the county refused to meet with the community at that time to discuss the matter; therefore maybe Ms. Drew or Mr. Billups will reply to all of us in order to answer these questions?

I have copied the President of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, Mr. Chip Franzoni on this message as well as the Editor of the local newspaper the Dunwoody Crier, Mr. Dick Williams (as well as blind copied a few of the local politicians) since I’m sure the county will want to publicize the proposed opening date of the skate park as well as its corresponding operational policies.

Mike, I too searched the web for information regarding the opening of the skate park and wanted to direct you to a message board used by many in the Atlanta skate community. Take a look at the message board at Woodyshalfpipe.com, http://woodyshalfpipe.com/msgboard/index.php?board=15.0 where there is a separate message board just for the Brook Run Skate Park.

Maybe Mr. Billups can confirm a post where he supposedly stated that the park may open in July, with the hours of operation being from 9 am – 10:30 pm with supervision and an entry fee? (It’s also a shame that the security guard has already chased several skaters out of the park as supposedly stated by Mr. Billups and self reported by several posts already bragging of its use on the Woody’s message board.)

I, as I’m sure you, would be interested in Mr. Billups confirming the operational procedures as requested in the first paragraph, but we will have to see if he is allowed to respond to both your and now my inquiry. Thanks for the question.

Take Care,

John Heneghan, President
Dunwoody North Civic Association

May 24, 2007

Below is my reply to a comment asking what the neighbors want.

Dear Cubiche,

Thank you for asking the question which the Parks Department seems afraid to ask, even though they have the obligation & a responsibility to do so. Formulating the many operational policies surrounding a new skate park is sure to be a difficult task which will at some point make someone (either the adjoining community or the skaters) unhappy; because of this, the County needs to finally realize that they can not operate inside a vacuum when it comes to providing services to the community. I have attempted to persuade the county through various means that they need to open the lines of communication so that we the community as a group can make our wishes for Brook Run known and at the same time we may better understand the many challenges under which parks department operates.

You asked what policies would I and the other residents like to see regarding the skate park at Brook Run? That question, at least on a community level, can not be properly answered without an advertised public forum whereby everyone was given an equal opportunity to voice their opinion. I suggest that the county announce such a public meeting to be held in the Brook Run Auditorium (or another nearby suitable place) whereby the County can finally explain to the community what improvements they are making in the park in correlation to the Master Plan, update the community on the demolition of the vacant buildings & the future restoration of those areas, as well as initiate a discussion as to the future policies & use of the skate park.

You may not be fully aware of the history of Brook Run but it appears to many local residents that they participated in creating a master plan for the park a number of years ago yet it is not being followed or at the very least, the spirit of the plan is being completely ignored. http://www.dunwoodynorth.org/brookrun/BrookRun_Narrative.doc

The plan outlines 16 areas of renovation or uses for the park; of those only two were completed as proposed (Picnic Meadow & Veterans Pavilion); the Playground is a wonderful addition though insufficient seating & lack of shade are still problems for many families attempting to use the facility; the Skate Park as documented below was not sculpted to fit into the existing topography and wooded areas which upset many residents to find that 5 acres of trees were cleared over night to create the proposed revenue generating attraction. The plans for the other areas of the park, many of which would have utilized the buildings now deteriorating due to vandalism and lack of use, have never even been initiated. Yet the Henry Jones Dog Park which was not in the original plan for the park was pushed through by the CEO who then named it after his dog. Though I and many other residents now enjoy the dog park, it was the way it was pushed through without any public meetings which upset many residents because the dog park location now blocks many of the walking trails through the most pristine wooded areas of the park.

Skate Park: This area is devoted to teen-agers and post playground kids. These enclosed and supervised venues will provide a much demanded activity area for skateboarding, roller hockey and adventure course/rock climbing. Keeping the nature theme in mind, however, these facilities would be sculpted to fit into the existing topography and wooded areas. This prototypical skate park area could be run by a third-party operator and be a source of revenue generation for Brook Run as well as other parks throughout DeKalb County.

As I stated above it is the lack of communication by the County as to operations of the park and the future development of the master plan which causes many of the residents the most heartache. In November of 2005 the citizens of the county passed a $230 million dollar bond referendum whereby Brook Run was promised $11.5 million. In the October 11, 2005 edition of the Dunwoody Crier, Mr. Marvin Billups, Deputy Director of DeKalb Parks stated “that the parks department would like to hold a series of “charrettes,” a special type of public meeting often used to attempt to reach community consensus on the design and planning of high-profile projects, to determine how the bond proceeds should be spent. (These) meetings will result in a community-wide consensus on the order in which the various components of the previously approved $38 million Brook Run master plan should be funded and implemented. By seeking public input, and by not assigning a specific dollar amount upfront for the different park projects, officials say the process will allow them to shape the park to meet the community’s needs and interests. “What needs to be done to serve the needs you hear?” asked Marvin Billups, deputy director of park planning and development for the DeKalb County Parks and Recreation Department. “If the bond referendum is approved, we’ll use the park’s master plan as a guide and work closely with the community to identify their priorities about how to spend the $11.5 million to meet those objectives.”” http://www.thecrier.net/articles/2005/10/11/front/brookrun.txt

These public meeting promised by Mr. Billups were never conducted and many in my community feel that this administration is attempting to spend the entire $11.5 million dollar slush fund as soon as they possibly can, even though the citizens of county will be paying for these improvements for the next 20 years.

Let me get back to your original question regarding my personal thoughts on the operation of the skate park. As the father of three young sons, I am looking forward to using the skate park, yet as a community representative I hope that County weighs all of the interested parties concerns so that an amicable win / win solution can be negotiated on its operation. I personally disagree that it should be a revenue generating operation since we will already be paying for the facility (with interest) over the next 20 years, therefore it should free to use or a very minimal annual fee should be charged to cover the expense of staffing the operation. The park should be “use at your own risk” and only be “supervised” by a staff member who unlocks the gates, cleans the restrooms & rents skate equipment (helmets & pads). Third party professionals could be contracted the first several months to train the initial users (many of whom may have never seen a skate park before) on proper skate etiquette and then possibly provide future instructional classes for a fee.

Though the skate facility will be fenced & lit; I would recommend that the hours of operation be limited to the current daylight hours, even though because of the lighting, it could by regular county policy be open until 11 pm. The main reason for making this suggestion is security. If the skate park is open until lets say 10:30 pm, it would mean that the entire 102 acre facility road system would be open to night time mischief and with the current level of contracted security staffing it would be woefully inadequate. If on the other hand the DeKalb Police Dept setup up an auxiliary “Parks Police Unit” with actual police powers stationed inside Brook Run to monitor the entire 102 acres maybe extended hours could work? The suggestion for the Parks Police Unit would be allowed under the covenants of the park deed just like the current “Parks Equipment Storage Lot” would also be allowed under the covenants. I could also see this same “Parks Police Unit” possibly housing the canine training facility and or bike patrols in order to tie into the dog facility which is almost inaccessible via motor vehicle.

As far as the possible night time lighting and noise that will be generated by the park, the landscaping may need to be beefed up on Peeler Road to replace the many trees that were cleared since there is almost no buffer zone on that side. This will be evaluated when we compare the proposed landscaping as documented on my site against what is actually installed and the value it provides in buffering.

I apologize if I rambled on but I care very deeply for this park and I want nothing but the very best for it. You now have my personal thoughts on the operation of the skate park and hope that the community in general can provide the same type of input.

I, like you will wait to see what the County decides to do.

John Heneghan

May 24, 2007

Another reply to a comment.


You & I do have many similar thoughts on how this park should operate, the main one being that it should be FREE. As I am sure you are well aware, I have monitored the Woodyshalfpipe site for months and it was I who posted the lighting schematics on-line informing the skate community of their availability so that they could be reviewed and the lights modified for improved nighttime use. I am not against extended hours & nighttime use, but I would hope that community concerns raised by that decision were fully addressed by the county first.

If you have reviewed the other sections of my web site on Brook Run, you will see the amount of vandalism and vacant buildings on the property and the concern that it has caused neighborhood residents. If the Skate Park will be open late, shouldn’t the dog park and the other sections be open as well? Since the streets are lit and there is some lighting in the dog park, maybe the whole park should be open late? I do not have all the answers but I know that if the Skate Park is open until 10:30, then in reality, the whole park will be open and with the current contracted police protection, that scares some residents who live nearby.

The next problematic issue in setting policy is the building itself. Besides the needed restrooms, it also has a store and an events area. The county is not going to board up the space and not use the building; therefore, I would be interested in hearing how you would propose that space to be used? I thought my suggestion for a concession stand and skate equipment rental was preferred over a revenue generating, tightly supervised, session park where you pay for each use. Probably somewhere between those two options, the county will decide on the operational use of the building and I would prefer a skate rental shop and free entry.

This park will be open for many years and because the initial policy set by the county will set the tone for how it is used; I too hope they set wise policy.


May 25, 2007

Letter sent by skate community to County.

From: Al Fontova
Sent: Friday, May 25, 2007 11:50 AM
To: Dunwoody North Civic Association
Cc: Billups Jr., Marvin F; Drew, Marilyn Boyd; franzoni, chip; thecrier; Swink, Kristie N.
Subject: Re: Brook Run Skate Park

Dear John,

Please excuse the late reply to your message but unfortunately the message landed in my spam folder and I just now found it. I'd like to respond to a few of your comments.

My experience with county related to the development of the park has been quite positive. Deputy Director Billups has not only made himself available to the skate community but he has also been quite responsive to our suggestions concerning changes to the build specifications of the park. In February of this year, Mr. Billups also asked our organization for a list of suggested rules for the park which we provided to him in a document via email. Mr. Billlups met with me last week and provided an update related to the operational policies being discussed at this time. During this meeting, he actively sought feedback about these issues.

Having said that, I do agree with you that a public meeting is a reasonable request. Personally, I would very much like to meet with you and other local residents so that we can engage in a productive dialogue about how this park will be run.

In terms of the operational polices of the park, the skate community is most concerned about these issues.

-Fees: I have expressed to Mr. Billups that it is the younger skaters that will be most impacted by imposing a fee to use the park. Many parks in the country to impose modest fee's, $20.00 for an annual pass for example, but ideally we would like to see use of the facility be completely free.

- Hours of operation and supervision: While the skate community is not opposed to supervision, there is some fear that because of the fact that supervisors will need to be paid, that the costs associated with the wages would limit the park's hours of operation. Mr. Billups told me last week that though no decisions are final as of this time, discussions to this point are leaning in the direction of having the park open early at 9am , and closing at 10.30pm at night. Again, he said this was still under discussion.

I hope that we can continue this dialog. I am hoping that the residents of Dunwoody and the local skate community can work together. I do appreciate the whole host of issues you raise concerning buildings, and the execution of the master plan. Please let me know if a public meeting is set to discuss these issues and I will attend.


Al Fontova
Brook Run Skatepark Association, Skaters for Public Parks

June 4, 2007
With no response from the County, I inform the public of future meetings.

I have not heard from the County regarding my suggestion that the Parks Department hold a public meeting regarding Brook Run. In previous messages to the County, I suggested they inform the community on what improvements they are making to Brook Run in correlation to the Master Plan, update the community on the demolition of the vacant buildings & the future restoration of those areas, as well as initiate a discussion as to the future policies & use of the skate park.

Since that type of meeting has not been announced, I note that the County is holding two semi-relevant public meetings whereby the community can comment on Brook Run. I suggest that all interested parties (both local residents & the Atlanta skate community) attend both meetings to find out what is happening at Brook Run and make your wishes known. The first is the Bond Advisory Meeting touring Brook Run on June 13th at 5:30 pm and the second is at the Parks Citizens Advisory Board Meeting at the Maloof Center on June 26th at 6 pm. Details are found at the links below.

June 13th http://www.co.dekalb.ga.us/news.html


The DeKalb Parks and Greenspace announces the revised 2007 meeting location for the Bond Advisory and Initiative for a Green DeKalb Council. The June 13, 2007, meeting will now be a tour of the Liane Levetan Park at Brookrun and the Chestnut Donaldson site, both located in Dunwoody. The tour will start at Liane Levetan Brook Run Park at 5:30 p.m., near the Children’s Adventure Park and conclude at the Chestnut Donaldson site located an estimated 6 blocks away. All participants will be required to drive to each location.

June 26th http://www.co.dekalb.ga.us/parks/cab.htm

The DeKalb County Parks and Recreation Department Citizens Advisory board meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Maloof Center, 1300 Commerce Drive, 1st floor Conference Room 102 in Decatur, Georgia. The next meeting will be Tuesday, June 26th at 6 PM.

The Manual J. Maloof Center, 1300 Commerce Drive, Decatur 30030

Purpose of the Citizens Advisory Board: To provide advice on the types of activities, necessary facilities, general direction and to assist the Park and Recreation Department in their efforts to provide leisure services to all citizens of DeKalb County.

John Heneghan, President
Dunwoody North Civic Association