If the reception from Murphey Candler Park advocates is a sign, the city’s site-specific master plans for 10 Brookhaven parks will be a hit with the community.
“Fantastic” and “incredible” were words the 30-member audience used to describe the draft master plan for Murphey Candler unveiled by planning firm GreenbergFarrow at a Dec. 5 meeting at the Lynwood Community Center.
Two other draft park plans were presented that day as well, and the rest will be unveiled in several meetings through Dec. 12, before finalized plans go the City Council in January. It is unclear whether people who can’t attend the meetings will be able to review the drafts, as GreenbergFarrow senior project manager Liz Cole said the plans likely won’t be posted online until after the final public meeting on Dec. 12, if at all. Planners are concerned the public would be confused by the draft status of the plans, Cole said.
The city later released the draft plans for Murphey Candler and two other parks following a Reporter Newspapers public records request. The documents can be viewed here.
Major changes to Murphey Candler drew applause, including a new community center, a boat house, and a new multi-use path and boardwalk circling the lake. However, those would be years away, if the city can afford them at all, noted Cole and Mayor Rebecca Chase Williams, who counseled patience.
“You’re looking at a long-range plan,” Cole said, adding that the final plans will include cost estimates that the city can use to set construction phasing priorities.
“Of course, our wish list is going to be well beyond what the city can afford,” at least all at once, Williams said.
However, there is basic groundwork the city can start laying next year, Cole said. One is creating uniform signage for the park system. Even more basic: conducting land surveys and tree inventories for every park, which hasn’t been done since DeKalb County operated them prior to Brookhaven’s 2012 founding. Technical information—including utility locations and even park boundaries—is out of date and possibly inaccurate, Cole said.
In short, improving Brookhaven’s parks will be a step-by-step process taking many years and millions of dollars. But there clearly is community enthusiasm for beginning those steps, as parks have been a main asset and planning focus of the new city. An overall parks system master plan is already in place, and the site-specific, detailed plans for 10 parks comes by community demand.
The other parks getting site-specific master plans include Ashford, Blackburn, Briarwood, Brookhaven, Clack’s Corner, Fernwood, Georgia Hills, Lynwood and Skyland. Their draft master plans came out of various public and “stakeholder” meetings.
At the Dec. 5 meeting about Murphey Candler, audience members praised both the plan’s content and GreenbergFarrow’s process, which included asking each person in attendance to voice their opinion and ask questions.
“I think this is brilliant,” one attendee said. “Thank you for listening to the community.”
“I’m kind of impressed how [Cole has] negotiatied the Middle East peace accords and gotten consensus,” joked Mayor Williams about how the plan draws together the park’s many different users. “This is a tough crowd.”
“It’s a really good plan,” said David Axelson, president of the Murphey Candler Girls Softball Association, echoing a common opinion.
Built around a lake on West Nancy Creek Drive, Murphey Candler is a complex park with many different uses, including paths, a swimming pool and more than a dozen baseball and softball diamonds. The draft master plan by GreenbergFarrow and landscape architect Mack Cain tackles both active and passive uses in ways large and small.
The park is notorious for dangerous traffic and parking problems. A drop-off spot for sports-playing kids is one improvement. All parking would be reconfigured to provide safer pedestrian access and more spaces. Some of the parking expansion would be done by placing gravel lots among trees rather than clear-cutting and paving. “It’s not your traditional Kroger [or] Walmart parking lot…A campground is what it ends up looking like,” Cole said.
A walking and biking path around the lake would include a boardwalk alongside the road atop the lake’s dam. Some playgrounds would be created as “natural play areas”—meaning earthen mounds or other natural fixtures instead of traditional jungle-gym equipment.
The Scout House building on the park’s west side would be preserved, but relocated, and possible used to house a restaurant or coffee shop. In its place, a new “true community center of some sort” would be built, Cole said. In the same area, a new boat house for possible boating on the lake would be created.
One idea that drew some concerns is reopening the “Horseshoe” along the road called Candler Lake East. The Horseshoe, a wooded area with a semicircular driveway, has drawn after-hours partiers in the past and is currently blocked to vehicles. Cole said the area includes a “natural amphitheater” that could be partly cleared and used to stage small concerts.
Another big idea: enlarging the park. The city owns more wild but inaccessible land southwest of the park on the opposite side of Nancy Creek. Using easements, Cole said, it might be possible to create a multi-use path to that area from both the park and the YMCA on Ashford-Dunwoody Road. In general, improving and expanding connectivity to other parks in Brookhaven and Dunwoody via such paths is another long-term goal.