As the city of Brookhaven begins the planning process for the future of its parks and recreation system, volunteer groups are becoming more organized and enthusiastic.
“We all believe the potential is there for something really groundbreaking,” said Chad Boles, president of the Briarwood Park Conservancy.
Brookhaven has a robust network of park volunteers. Along with active “friends of the park” groups and conservancies for each of the city’s parks, there is also a recently formed umbrella group known as the Parks and Recreation Coalition, or PARC, that ties them all together.
Ray Holloway, Brookhaven’s Parks and Recreation Director, began work with the city in January, and the city will soon get started on a Parks and Recreation Master Plan.
“I feel really enthusiastic and excited about the possibility for parks in the city. We’re just eager to get going and eager for the parks department to get going,” said Karen Whitehead, a board member of the Murphey Candler Park Conservancy. “We want this master planning to get going so we can get to work on our parks.”
The pent-up energy comes from more than a year of patience on the part of parks advocates, who have waited for the city’s parks department to get up and running.
Boles said active volunteer groups in Brookhaven parks pre-date the formation of the city. But he thinks the continued energy surrounding Brookhaven parks is “just a natural momentum” from the cityhood movement.
“I think that cart came before the horse. People wanted a robust police force and a renovated park system. That’s why the city was created,” Boles said.
Whitehead credits a desire for better parks and recreation with bringing many voters to the polls to vote for the incorporation of Brookhaven in 2012. “Consideration of parks is partly what brought the city to be,” Whitehead said.
Brookhaven City Manager Marie Garrett said she thinks there is opportunity for partnership between the city and the volunteer groups. “There is a lot of pride in their parks and they want to see them fully utilized. I’m enthusiastic about it,” Garrett said.
Whitehead said she thinks having a full-time parks and recreation director in Brookhaven will mean a lot more personal attention for the parks.
“The DeKalb County parks director, I think, was an outstanding person. He was really quite accessible. But he had a huge responsibility compared to Ray Holloway, who has 11 parks,” Whitehead said.
She said parks advocates are encouraged that the new city government seems to consider parks and recreation to be a priority. “From the beginning we feel like city has really supported us too,” Whitehead said. “They have not relegated parks to the background.”
Boles said for many, volunteering to pull weeds or spread mulch in the parks is an easy way to get involved with the new city.
“It’s immediate satisfaction. You see it. There’s so many easy things to do at each one of the parks,” Boles said.
He said parks volunteers hope that their efforts, coupled with resources from the city, will make Brookhaven’s parks stand out.
“Our vision came from an existing parks system,” Boles said. “It’s kind of like we looked in our back yard and found we all had these hidden treasures and no one was really utilizing them.”