Buckhead’s vast 268-acre Chastain Park is an oasis of green space in a community afflicted with traffic gridlock. For the residents living around it, the park is their greatest asset, but also creates the biggest challenge of living there.
There’s a place for everyone at Chastain Park. Golfers, swimmers, tennis players, music lovers, teachers, students, joggers, veterans and bikers share the space. Many travel to Chastain from other parts of the city. Often it’s a tight squeeze, a problem highlighted by the park’s 10-feet wide PATH Foundation trail that narrows to 4 feet along Powers Ferry Road.
The Galloway School, a prominent private institution, is landlocked within the park’s borders.
Parents drop off children at nearby Sutton Middle School. Traffic isn’t peachy in Atlanta’s wealthiest community, and Chastain traffic qualifies as bad, even for Buckhead. In addition to the weekday commuter traffic, the park also brings in crowds for weekend events, such as concerts and ball games.
Chastain Park Civic Association President Jim King notes that the park contains four main north-to-south roads – Powers Ferry Road, Lake Forrest Drive, Northside Drive and Roswell Road.
“There’s only one road, West Wieuca, that goes through the park, so east-to-west connectivity is slow,” King said.
Civic Association member Debra Fowler said the traffic is “really horrible.”
King said there are about 1,500 parking spaces in and around Chastain. If people don’t carpool into the park, neighborhood streets catch the overflow.
That’s where the Civic Association steps in. King, a man with silver hair who often gives passionate speeches in defense of Buckhead, said the association is one of several with a stake in the park’s future.
The Civic Association provides security, demands action from public officials, and partners with the nearly one dozen other organizations operating on behalf of Chastain.
“I’d like to think we are, in a lot of ways, thought leaders on issues,” King said.
The neighborhood’s borders are Mount Paran Road to the north, Roswell Road to the east, Northside Drive to the west, and Blackland Road to the south. The neighborhood exists in two cities. About 1/3 is in Sandy Springs and 2/3 is in Atlanta, King said.
It is served by two public school systems: Atlanta and Fulton County. The elementary schools are Warren T. Jackson in Atlanta and Heards Ferry in Sandy Springs.
King said the traditional boundaries contain about 2,000 residents, but there are some areas outside of the northern boundary that also like to consider themselves a part of the neighborhood. Using that measurement, the population would be closer to 3,000, King said.
King doesn’t mind that people like associating themselves with Chastain.
“I try to be more inclusive than exclusive,” he said.
Chastain began as a 1,000-acre tract, according to the Chastain Park Conservancy, an organization that helps maintain the park. Creek Indians lived there in the early 1800s and farmed what is now the North Fulton Golf Course. In the 1930s, the park was the site of a Negro Women’s Convict Camp, according to historical accounts. The park is named in honor of County Commissioner Troy Chastain, dedicated to his memory in 1946. The park began its transformation around the same time, benefiting from New Deal projects via the Works Progress Administration. Many of the facilities still present were WPA projects, according to the Conservancy.
Today those amenities are what make the park a destination point. The Chastain Amphitheater brings in top musical acts, in addition to weekend traffic. The horse park, swimming pool, golf course, tennis center and ballfields leave little excuse for boredom.
If you like a slower pace, that’s OK, too. Older couples walk hand-in-hand along the trail, while younger residents stretch on the green before a jog.
King said the amenities, location and his neighbors are the things he likes most about living there. Fowler said it’s one of the few spaces in Atlanta that hasn’t been over-developed.
“It’s centrally located,” Fowler said. “The neighborhood and the people are terrific.”
King said the multiple organizations affiliated with Chastain work independently with the same goal in mind.
“Everybody does their job,” King said. “The park is taken care of.”