By Rick Callihan
It’s been about 200 years since the great land grab known as the Georgia Land Lotteries, but expect to soon see another type of land grab locally in upcoming months. No, Dunwoody is not selling off Cherokee land. Instead look for groups of residents wanting to stake a claim for a piece of Dunwoody’s Brook Run Park for something they feel is needed in Dunwoody.
No doubt, the crown jewel of Dunwoody’s very limited green space is Brook Run Park, about 100 acres on the west side of town. The time is upon us to decide what amenities (if any) are built around town, especially at Brook Run Park.
So what should be built at Brook Run? An indoor tennis facility? I’d venture to say an indoor tennis facility with eight courts would be booked solid 14 hours a day, every week of the year. What about an indoor aquatic center? Dunwoody swim and tennis neighborhoods are known for their swim teams, but nearly all neighborhood pools are closed eight months a year. Hundreds of Dunwoody residents travel outside the city limit seeking quality year-round swim programs.
Need gymnastics facility
A gymnastics building like in Sandy Springs at Hammond Park would be wanted here by some. Speaking of Hammond Park, what about the multi-use artificial turf field, we could use a couple of those, right? Today’s youth and adults participate in a wide variety of activities, and the facilities for these activities are usually not in Dunwoody. A few of Dunwoody’s places of worship offer great sports programs for kids, but the teams fill up quickly and their outdoor fields are overused.
With our city’s recent acquisition of several parks within our boundaries, the city has established a Parks and Recreation department, headed by city employee Brent Walker. Now that Dunwoody owns the parks, decisions to be need made on what amenities should be built, and, of course, on how to fund these park improvements.
A new Parks and Recreation Master Plan Sounding Board committee has been formed (their first meeting was Nov. 10, 2010) and residents attended two open house meetings hosted by Lose and Associates, the firm chosen to work with the city in creating a Parks and Green Space Comprehensive Plan. The sounding board, an on-line survey, a mailed survey, and other public participation meetings will be used as guides to decide where and what is built at Brook Run and at other parks. Keep in mind deed restrictions state that 70 percent of Brook Run must remain green space.
Plenty of needs
There are plenty of holes to fill here in Dunwoody when it comes to parks. The city has no swimming pool, only two public tennis courts, no basketball courts, five playgrounds, and two baseball fields – with over 40,000 residents.
It’s no secret Dunwoody lags behind in regards to public park facilities when compared to neighboring cities. I’d venture to say Dunwoody has fewer public amenities (tennis courts, baseball fields, pools, tracks, playgrounds, picnic pavilions, etc.) than any other city in Georgia with at least 10,000 residents.
Cities like Tucker and Forest Park, at half our population size, have more public amenities than Dunwoody. Historically, DeKalb County was never aggressive in acquiring park land. When it got serious about acquiring green space about 10 years ago, land in north DeKalb was not only scarce, but expensive. The end result is very little green space and hardly any public amenities in Dunwoody. Our saving grace is the 100-acre Brook Run Park, acquired from the state by DeKalb back in 1998.
As the city develops a plan for its parks, look for groups of like-minded people to band together and promote certain facilities be built. I see nothing wrong with this strategy, as the city needs lots of input so that what gets built gets used.
Our city parks director and council will have some tough decisions in the upcoming months.
Keep in mind 2011 is an election year for the mayor and three council spots, so political pressure may be a factor. With dedicated parents wanting their kids to play sports here in Dunwoody instead of traveling to places like the YMCA, Murphy Candler, and Sandy Springs, the debate will be intense. And don’t forget about Dunwoody’s senior population. That large voting bloc may insist on a shiny new Senior Center, as opposed to athletic fields.
Need a philosophy
But before anything gets built, the city not only needs to come up with funding ideas, but also develop a philosophy. Is it the city’s responsibility to provide outdoor volleyball courts, picnic pavilions, and an aquatic center? Is there a possibility of corporate sponsorship for amenities? Perhaps a RoomsToGo Theater at Brook Run Park for the Stage Door Players? With our non-profit institutions offering programs throughout the city, is there a need for city-owned facilities and programs?
If you have an interest in the future of our parks, I suggest you participate in upcoming surveys and meetings on the topic.
Dunwoody resident Rick Callihan, our local columnist for the Dunwoody Reporter, is a member of the parks and recreation “sounding board.” You can find his blog at http:llwww.dunwoodytalk.blogspot.com.