Councilman Gabriel Sterling stands by a creek as he talks with his constituents.

Just off Roswell Road, not far from City Hall where District 4 Councilman Gabriel Sterling spends his time as a member of Sandy Springs City Council, John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve played host to the sound of crickets and the footfalls of Sterling’s constituents. The Aug. 6 town hall meeting drew a dozen nature-lovers and early risers to the park, which Sterling said is one of the most under used in Sandy Springs.

Sterling encouraged the group to stop for a minute. Listen, he said. He paused. “I hear more crickets than I do cars now.”

There were insects aplenty on the short hike through the park, 30-acre nature preserve named for the man who saved it from becoming a car dealership. A yellow jacket stung Sterling in the middle of his question and answer session.  Sterling gave updates on the city budget (it was recently cut from $90 million to $75 million), the city’s extensive list of storm water issues, and road projects in his district. And if there was something he didn’t know, he was ready to e-mail the question city staff on his iPad.

Sterling joked that he thought City Council was one of the worst jobs someone could run for, saying he felt like “the dog that caught the car.” His constituents know where he lives and many of the things he does affect the things they care about, like road paving. He said the City Council functions well and that once the council has reached an agreement, “the fighting ends.”

“We fight a lot behind closed doors,” he said.

He said government “Has a lot of moving parts.”

“Speaking of moving parts, which way should we go now,” he asked before taking off down the trail.

Residents asked a few questions and mostly walked and listened.

Fearn LaBan said it was “wonderful” to bring more attention to the park.

“I just wish more people knew about this thing,” he said. “Not many people know about it. Friends of mine who have been living here for years don’t know about it.”

Katherine Feeman, who serves on the park’s board of directors, said people also don’t realize it’s a “passive park,” a quiet place to walk your dog or walk with friends.

“This is an urban jewel,” she said.

Sterling hoped the town hall would bring more awareness of the preserve.

“A lot of people don’t know this exists,” he said.

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of