By Valerie Rose Sellers

Plans are under way for Little Nancy Creek Park, a new city park in North Buckhead that will boast amenities normally found only at larger parks, such as picnic areas, gardens, soft paths and playgrounds.

The park, named for the creek that meanders through the property, is at 4012 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, bordering Brookhaven.

When the possibility of obtaining quality green space in North Buckhead came up in 2006, the timing could not have been better. The city lacked adequate parks in the area.

The initial planning session took place at a North Buckhead Civic Association meeting with city parks officials in October. By December, a 5-acre site had been selected for the park.

Although budget problems could have derailed the project, the city purchased the land for $2.7 million in August 2007.

Gordon Certain, the president of the North Buckhead Civic Association (NBCA), is considered by many in the community to be the vocal advocate and driving force behind the effort to gain the park. He calls Little Nancy Creek Park his baby.

Certain said that during the acquisition phase he consulted often with Nancy Jones, the director of the Blue Heron Preserve near Roswell Road. Jones and Certain worked with Andrew Schock of the Conservation Fund and with Dianne Harnell Cohen, the commissioner of the Atlanta Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, who provided high-level city support for the acquisition and introduced neighbors to Park Pride.

Park Pride is an independent nonprofit organization that has raised millions of dollars to finance park planning, land purchases and park improvements since 1989. The organization provides grants, training and park designs through park visioning plans and helps people launch Friends of the Park groups.

Director Walt Ray said that among 25 major cities, Atlanta ranks last in land per capita dedicated to parks, and Park Pride is striving to change that.

Certain also praised Dist. 7 City Councilman Howard Shook, who introduced legislation to authorize the purchase of the parkland.

An early boost came to Little Nancy Creek Park when Park Pride awarded the neighborhood a visioning grant, which provided services valued at $25,000 for professional guidance during the design phase. Because taxpayer and grant funds have been exhausted, the park group has launched Friends of Little Nancy Creek Park to raise money, coordinate volunteer efforts, and equip and sustain the park.

“The Little Nancy Creek Park project had to be a collaborative effort, since the park is located in the North Buckhead neighborhood where it meets Brookhaven,” Certain said. To that end, a steering committee was created, with co-chairs Mandy LeCompte from North Buckhead and Lisa Dickerson from the Historic Brookhaven neighborhood, who began directing efforts on behalf of both communities.

“The planning has been rewarding and challenging,” said LeCompte, who said one early challenge was getting neighbors to come see the park to realize its potential.

As interest built, the next challenge was getting community consensus on park plans. The attributes of the property include beauty and tranquility supplied by mature pines, oaks, box elders and the flow of Little Nancy Creek.

Still, before the investment of more than 200 hours of volunteer time, the land was little more than an overgrown home site with dilapidated structures.

With help from community partners such as Auto Trader and dozens of local residents, this past March marked what committee members are calling the halfway mark toward the park’s opening. Two plans are being considered for the park’s design, and the final plan will likely be a modified version of the two. The remains of the home and guest house on the property are scheduled to be removed or incorporated into the final design.

In late May, a public hearing will be held, and the master plan will be unveiled and submitted to city officials for approval. But the park’s opening is still months away.

The date of the hearing is supposed to be announced on the North Buckhead Civic Association’s Web site, www.nbca.org, and the Park Pride site, www.parkpride.org.

Certain said the creation of the park is long overdue. “Before the acquisition of Little Nancy Creek Park, North Buckhead was the largest developed neighborhood in the city, by land area, that had no real park or playground.”