Sandy Springs City Council members John Paulson and Karen Meinzen McEnerny tour a possible park site.

Sandy Springs City Councilman Chip Collins grew up in the area and now lives within a mile of the riverfront parcel, but said he had never set foot on the property until that morning. He was impressed.

“There are not many swaths of 20 acres of land in Sandy Springs, especially not many that are relatively secluded and have a view of the river,” he said.

On March 31, Collins was one of a group of about 14 city and county officials, residents of nearby neighborhoods and members of environmental groups who toured the property off Old Riverside Drive. The acreage is owned by Fulton County, which bought it in the 1960s as the site for a sewage treatment plant. Now it’s used for a much smaller sewage pump station, so that much of the land is wooded hillsides around an open, grassy field.

Some Sandy Springs city officials want to use the relatively isolated piece of property for a park.

“What’s really appealing about this piece of property is we’re staring at a big, flat open space,” Collins said. “There are not many places in Sandy Springs where kids can come out and play in a big, flat open space.”

Steve Levetan, chairman of the board of the Sandy Springs Conservancy, agreed that using the land for a public park could prove to be a popular idea. “This is one of the last pieces on the river,” he said. “To add another piece of park land with passive uses along the river would be phenomenal.”

City Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny, one of the organizers of the tour, offered her “personal vision” of a park that offered a pavilion, a playground, an open field and a small bridge over a creek to connect to trails and picnic tables on a neighboring hillside. There might also be a fenced area for dogs and a small community garden, she said.

But city officials don’t plan to do anything until they get “buy-in from the neighbors,” she said. Collins and Meinzen McEnerny said city officials will investigate the possibilities of using the county land for a city park. If that’s possible, they said, meetings will be held to determine what the neighbors think of the plan.

Neighbors on the tour seemed interested. Van Westmoreland, who lives nearby, called using the property as a park “a great idea.”

“It’s just got to be managed,” he said. “It’s just got to be monitored properly and it’ll be fine.”

Lisa Hrabe, president of the Riverside Homeowners Association, called the property “our own little neighborhood pearl” and said the residents would like access to it. The gate across the access road now remains locked.

“I think we would support passive uses — hiking trails, an open field — with good security,” Hrabe said. “We would consider it a neighborhood amenity.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.