By Michael Jacobs
michaeljacobs@reporternewspapers.net

DeKalb County has purchased a home in Brookhaven Fields as the first big step toward fulfilling its late owner’s wish to give his neighbors a park.

The property at 1410 Cartecay Drive, at the corner of Appalachee Drive in the neighborhood south of Dresden Drive and east of North Druid Hills Road, is less than a quarter-acre, but its potential to bring some green tranquility to a built-out area has inspired a public-private partnership to create a park known as Clack’s Corner more than three years after owner Howard Clack died.

“It’s a needed amenity,” said Dist. 2 DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader, who represents Brookhaven Fields.

He said Brookhaven Fields is densely built and full of families, but “it’s a neighborhood that doesn’t have any park space.”

Clack was a beloved lifelong resident of Brookhaven known among his neighbors for his music, his art and his poetry, said Meredith O’Connor, the membership chairwoman of the Brookhaven Fields Civic Association (BFCA) and one of the leaders in the park-creation effort. At age 75, Clack died suddenly Feb. 15, 2006; he never married and was childless, although two siblings and several nieces and nephews survived him.

Clack lived most of his life in the house, which county records say was built in 1942 and where some of his siblings were born. The Clack family told neighbors after Howard’s death about their memories of the area, such as what they called “Brookhaven Beach” — a stream across the street from the home where the siblings would splash on hot days because at the time there were no other houses in the way.

The two-bedroom, 842-square-foot house had little but nostalgia to recommend it, and according to an article sent around the neighborhood in 2006, Howard’s surviving brother, Jerry, raised the idea of turning his childhood home site into a community asset. He said at the time: “It would be your park. Howard wanted a Clack to continue to live in the house. He was interested in protecting it from development. He would be pleased if it were to be a park.”

The Clack family asked whether the county could buy the 0.2-acre site for that purpose, and three years after Howard’s death, the county Board of Commissioners voted 7-0 to approve a resolution from Rader authorizing DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis to purchase the property for not more than $250,000. The county Tax Assessor’s Office appraised the land at $121,500 and the house at $78,100 for a total value of $199,600 in 1996.

The county also will pay to demolish the house and prep the site for the park installation. Rader said that work likely will happen in July.

The money for the purchase came from the county’s 2001 park bond acquisition fund and meets the need for green space not only in the neighborhood, but also in Rader’s entire district, which the commissioner said has less parkland than any other district in DeKalb.

Because of the size of the land and its proximity to single-family homes, the concept calls for a passive design of paths and greenery, with no recreation equipment.

“The park will provide a quiet place for contemplation as well as a place to hold neighborhood functions,” reads a flier on the project.

Speaking at the BFCA’s annual meeting this month, Rader called the development of Clack’s Corner “a really good thing.”

“Don’t thank me; thank yourselves,” he told the neighbors, who organized three years ago to see the project through and are backing up their words with their money.

The BFCA last year pledged $1,000 toward the installation and agreed to be responsible for the park’s maintenance. Village Park, one of the subdivisions within Brookhaven Fields, has pledged to contribute $500 a year for the first three years of the park, and the civic association hopes other subdivisions will follow suit.

Park Pride is running the fundraising campaign for the BFCA, which is trying to raise $30,000 by Oct. 1. The goal is to get everyone in Brookhaven Fields to contribute something to bring in an amenity that will should enhance property values.

The Clack family isn’t walking away from the project after closing on the sale. (The papers were expected to be signed May 11.) One of Howard’s nephews is a landscape architect and has volunteered to develop the park plan with the neighborhood’s input, and the family has donated $9,000 to kick off the campaign for Clack’s Corner.

“We live in a great neighborhood without any public green space,” the Clack’s Corner flier says. “This is an opportunity to add a centerpiece to Brookhaven Fields and to continue to build the feeling of community we have all learned to love.”