By Joe Earle And Alex Ewalt
Their suggestions covered a lot of ground.
One person wanted more bathrooms in Brookhaven’s parks. Another wanted to feel safer when walking through the woods.
Somebody else suggested putting in a zip line through the trees.
Chris Camp, a consultant working with the city of Brookhaven to develop a long-term parks plan, listened attentively to the ideas offered by the 21 residents who gathered at Briarwood Park on April 14 to discuss the direction the city of Brookhaven should take with its parks.
Across town, about four times as many residents gathered at Oglethorpe University for a simultaneous discussion of what should be done with the city’s parks.
“Tonight was to give citizens an opportunity to come out and tell us what you like, what needs to be repaired and what needs to be added to the park system,” Camp said.
And the residents offered plenty of ideas. Some wanted to see public art. Others thought there should be areas where dogs could run free. Others proposed bike paths, an indoor city pool, an arboretum, a climbing wall, more playground equipment, workout areas, summer camps.
“What about Wi-Fi?” someone asked.
“Absolutely,” Camp replied.
At the Oglethorpe meeting, suggested improvements ranged from adding more playground equipment for younger children to providing much-needed maintenance at Brookhaven Park to building more activity-specific fields for sports such as Ultimate Frisbee.
But most comments concerned Murphey Candler Park and its future relationship with the city. More than a quarter of the crowd wore Murphey Candler baseball caps or shirts.
Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis attended the session amongst the crowd, and briefly commented on the need to keep the “spirit of volunteerism” alive at Murphey Candler through the transition.
Murphey Candler league representatives wanted to establish a land-use agreement with the city.
“During the transition we’ve been operating without this agreement, so we feel a sense of urgency to put that in place,” said Vic Parker, executive vice president for Murphey Candler Little League. “I think the mayor is very supportive, and he’s part of the community as well, so we’re hoping he can help us bring these terms to closure here, rapidly.”
Jill Pohl, a board member with the Murphey Candler Marlins swim team, weighed in on her organization’s facilities needs. She said the city should reach agreements with community groups to operate programs in the parks similar to the way recreation programs are provided in city of Atlanta parks.
“All three pools are in pathetic condition,” Pohl said, referring to the facilities at Murphey Candler, Lynwood Park and Briarwood Park. “We’d love to see them turn into these public-private options like Chastain and Garden Hills, Piedmont.”
The consultants plan to take the suggestions and a range of other ideas and use them as they develop a city parks plan. The plan is due to the city in July, Camp said.
Whit Alexander, vice president of landscape architecture firm Lose & Associates, which was hired by the city in December to work on the study, said a survey based on suggestions from both meeting sites will be posted to the Brookhaven city website in the coming weeks.
At Briarwood, Camp told the group that his impression of Brookhaven’s parks was that the system had “good bones,” but need attention and repair.
“I think you’ve got the bones of a good park system,” he said. “I like to say it’s been loved to death, which means it’s been used to death and not had maintenance,” he said.
Residents at the Briarwood gathering were hopeful the city could help the parks. Interest in better parks was one of the reasons residents founded the young city.
“I just think the parks need to be improved, and make Brookhaven a better place to live and to improve property values,” Gary Friedman said.
Friedman said he was pleased that the discussion at Briarwood touched on improvements at a number of parks spread across the city.
Chad Boles, president of the Briarwood Park Conservancy, said he hoped the planning process will “create a priority list from all the great ideas that come from all the citizens …. so Brookhaven can have a park system for all the city.”