The removal of at least 100 trees for the Bobby Jones Golf Course renovation has nearby residents lamenting their loss and saying officials have not heeded their concerns.
Officials with the foundation overseeing the renovation say they will plant some new trees and are addressing other environmental problems that will improve the area. But fewer trees will be replanted than the amount removed, and some healthy trees have been cut down only because they were in the way.
“It’s disheartening to see the big, beautiful trees cleared out,” said Tony Casadonte, who lives on nearby Golfview Road.
The golf course, which is located at Atlanta Memorial Park near Northside Drive, is currently barren with upturned dirt and piles of felled trees scattered around the course.
“We’re sensitive to the importance of trees to the environment,” said Marty Elgison, president of the Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation. “Overall, this project will significantly improve the environment.”
The renovation plan calls for replacing the existing course with a reversible nine-hole course, adding a driving range and constructing a new building for the clubhouse, several golf associations and the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame.
An arborist review completed before the renovation began found that, of the 1,182 trees on the property, only about 143 are in good condition. The remaining trees are in fair or poor condition or are dead, Elgison said.
Some healthy trees were removed because they were in the way of the renovation. The rest of the at least 100 trees cut down were dead or unhealthy.
The renovation plan calls for planting 100 new trees to replace a portion of those that were removed. Elgison did not know how many total trees have been removed and declined to estimate. But, he said, the foundation likely will plant more new trees than the amount of healthy trees that were removed.
But that doesn’t comfort another nearby resident who is concerned the young, small trees won’t adequately replace the old oaks that were lost.
“There’s no guarantee about their life,” said the resident, who asked to remain anonymous. “It will take 25 to 40 years for the trees to look anywhere like what the architects recommended.”
Plans have also been altered to save some trees, including by shifting the placement of holes, Elgison said.
During construction of the golf course, several improvements will be made to the surrounding area, Elgison said. They include decreasing water runoff by removing some impervious surfaces, stabilizing the Tanyard Creek stream banks, and building an irrigation pond so they no longer will have to tap into the city water supply to irrigate the course.
“I think people need to look beyond the trees,” he said.
The residents said some of the concerns stem from not only the trees, but the feeling project officials have not heard their concerns, especially since the state took ownership of the golf course in a land swap with the city.
“Our concerns might have been heard, but they were disregarded,” the resident said.
Casadonte said he feels that the project was pushed through, regardless of neighbors’ approval or opinions of the proposal.
“I think some of the angst is that it feels like it’s being delivered upon us,” Casadonte said.
Elgison said he believes the foundation does listen to the concerns and has provided enough ways to give input. He still regularly attends neighborhood association meetings and answers every email from residents, he said.
“I think there’s been more than enough opportunities to provide feedback,” Elgison said.
The Georgia Building Authority, which oversees state properties, directed requests about the golf course to the Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation.
Elgison encourages residents to remember that when construction is finished, the golf course will look much different than it does now.
“One thing people should remember is the trees are not being replaced with condos or homes, and what you see out there now is a construction site,” he said.
Casadonte said he is optimistic the end result will be a nice golf course, but is still dismayed so many trees were lost in the process.
“Tree loss, I think, truly makes people sad,” he said.