Nearly 300 trees along North Peachtree Road and Barclay Drive are expected to be cut down in the coming weeks to make room for two new baseball fields.
The fields are coming to Peachtree Charter Middle School and adjacent to Brook Run Park as part of the land deal made late last year between the city and DeKalb Schools.
Some residents living in the area, however, are upset the trees are coming down and worry that there won’t be enough of a buffer between the new fields and their homes to keep out noise and possible stadium lighting.
“We are livid about what they are going to do,” said Elliott Rich, who has lived on Ellisbury Drive for 11 years. “It’s too late … because the decision has been made already. It’s like the city is asking forgiveness rather than asking permission.”
Rich said he just learned of construction of the new baseball fields earlier this month via Nextdoor, the private social media website for neighborhoods.
The thicket of trees that can be seen from North Peachtree Road and Barclay Drive was surrounded by fencing on Sept. 7. The cutting of the trees and other preparation work was set to begin Sept. 11 but was delayed due to heavy winds and rain from Tropical Storm Irma.
Parks and Recreation Director Brent Walker said he has heard from a few concerned residents about the number of trees that will be removed to make way for the new baseball fields to be used by Dunwoody Senior Baseball and students at the school. He said the city will replace each tree cut down with a new one as part of its “no net loss of trees” policy established about seven years ago.
Most of the trees to be cut down are hardwoods and pine trees and crews will be doing what they can to spare the trees, especially along North Peachtree Road, Walker said.
“This is not something we particularly we want to do,” he said. “We will be planting one for one, either at the location or in right-of-way or at other city parks.”
The mayor and City Council voted July 10 to spend up to $5.7 million for the design and construction of two new baseball fields adjacent to Brook Run Park. The amount is still significantly more than the original budgeted $4.3 million to build the fields but the council agreed the remainder of the money would come from the city’s reserves.
Councilmember John Heneghan wrote on his blog that 296 trees are headed to the chopping block and that the city is investing in the latest lighting technology to hopefully limit light spillover into the nearby neighborhoods.
He wrote he expressed disappointment that so many trees were having to be cut down, but added “that construction will be messy and much like the heartache of cutting the Brook Run Trail through the woods, with a few years of growth it will be a beautiful facility that the entire community can be proud of.”
The new baseball fields will have artificial turf and will be the home for the 42-year-old Dunwoody Senior Baseball league for middle school and high school aged boys. The fields will also have rectangular overlays in the outfield so that PCMS students can also use the fields for such sports as soccer during regular school hours.
Dunwoody Senior Baseball President Jerry Weiner said he was surprised to hear there were some complaints about the cutting down of trees because construction of the fields has been known for some time.
“I’ve not heard people upset,” he said. “If you look at the site, it’s obvious the trees are not able to stay.
“Of course, we always want to keep as many trees as possible,” he said. “Given where the city chose to put us there is no choice [about the trees]. I would have loved to have other choices.”
Walker said the ballfields had to be redesigned and shifted several times to fit into the 8-acre space to cut down on costs after a bid came in at more than $7 million and was rejected by the council. The new fields will include more parking, a plaza area between the two fields and a concession stand.
Walker said plans are to have the fields finished by February in time for Dunwoody Senior Baseball league play.
The City Council had been in private talks with DeKalb Schools for about a year before they voted in November 2016 to approve the land deal to swap Dunwoody Senior Baseball fields in Dunwoody Park to DeKalb Schools for the current Austin Elementary site and $3.6 million in cash. The current baseball fields are on 10.2 acres in Dunwoody Park. The new fields will be built on about 8 acres of green space at the back of PCMS that is now city property.
DeKalb Schools intends to break ground next month on a new Austin Elementary School. The new Austin school is expected to be open in fall 2019.
After the new school is opened, the city will then own the current Austin Elementary School site and early talks are of making that property a park.