By Rick Callihan

The city of Dunwoody recently announced it intends to buy 19 acres of land on North Shallowford Road for use as a park or some other type of green space. This $5.5 million land purchase is contingent upon voters in Dunwoody approving the Land Acquisition bond this November. That bond, one of two bonds voters will consider later this year, is for up to $33 million for land purchases.

What does the city intend to do with this 19-acre tract? What does the city have planned for the recently acquired 16-acre ‘PVC’ farm land? Will voters approve a bond giving the next City Council a $33 million checkbook to buy land without some guidelines established for the city when considering what properties to acquire?

I doubt it. It’s not that 50 percent of Dunwoody voters are against adding to the city’s real estate holdings (and adding to their own tax burden), it’s just that many voters want to know the big picture.

Is this land for sports complexes or playgrounds? Is it for passive use or will we have organized sports leagues? What size tracts of land does the city need? Are we looking only for 10+ acres for parks and green space? Would the city buy residential lots?

If Dunwoody residents vote for more green space (parks), then we need a comprehensive, regional plan in place. The current parks plan is full of more holes than a Brook Run disc golf basket.

Dunwoody has lots of kids, and we’ll continue to have kids. The youth of Dunwoody participate in a wide variety of sports including soccer, football, tennis, baseball, softball, swimming, lacrosse, gymnastics, and more.

Where do our kids play these sports? For nearly all organized sports, aside from church-league soccer and the activities at Zaban Park, Dunwoody children travel outside of Dunwoody to participate in organized sports. Top destinations include Murphey Candler, Morgan Falls and Hammond parks and Dynamo and Concorde facilities.

Our city has never been hesitant to create special committees (listening to committee advice is another column) nor has it been reluctant to partner with Sandy Springs (E-911 center, SWAT team, and more), so how about a regional plan for youth sports between Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, and maybe DeKalb County?

If Morgan Falls and Murphey Candler have ample baseball fields to serve area youth, should Dunwoody duplicate their efforts? Perhaps Dunwoody could create a softball complex to serve girls, freeing up more fields at Morgan falls for baseball.

Is there now a demand for lacrosse fields? Maybe that’s something Dunwoody could create, partnering with Sandy Springs to offer lacrosse fields for the two cities. What sport does your kid or grandchild play? What about your neighbors’ kids – where do they play organized sports? Most likely, not in Dunwoody.

Of course, this regional sports committee needs more than just Dunwoody to participate. We were heavily courted by Sandy Springs (for our money) to help subsidize their expensive E-911 center, but will city leaders across the county line also be interested in talking to us about creating a regional sports program? (Or perhaps we should instead petition the State of Georgia to be annexed by Sandy Springs, anticipating a new Milton County and a Milton County School District).

In regards to a joint venture on organized sports, we need Sandy Springs more than they need us. But if a land acquisition and/or parks improvement bond passes in November, then maybe there is interest from Sandy Springs.

On the flip side, is it government’s role or responsibility to provide baseball fields and tennis courts? Should taxpayers without children playing sports be on the hook for buying land and building fields?

No doubt an improved parks system, including organized sports, improves home values overall in Dunwoody. But if city council and staff want our votes, they need to review the initial parks survey and produce a better plan and some established guidelines for land purchases.