The city of Dunwoody gained a new 7-acre park with a recent purchase of the former Waterford Swim and Racquet Club. Plans are in the works to create a new trail network in the property to connect surrounding neighborhoods.
The City Council voted Dec. 9 to buy 4565 Dellrose Drive and 2371 North Peachtree Way for $125,000. The two properties are adjacent to each other and include a mostly wooded area, a portion of a pond, old tennis courts and an empty swimming pool. The city purchased the property from the nonprofit Waterford Neighborhood Association, which is the same entity as the swim and racquet club under a new name.
“This is a great opportunity not only for the neighborhood, but the city as a whole,” said Councilmember Tom Lambert. “For me, the most attractive thing about this park is borders so many neighborhoods … so a trail network in the park will connect the neighborhoods to the park [and] also to each other.”
The Waterford neighborhood is in the northeast portion of the city where more open green space is needed, Lambert said.
DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester of Dunwoody got approval to transfer $125,000 of county park bond money to the city to buy the new park. The park is city-owned and will be maintained by the city.
“Preserving land for parks in Dunwoody, and all of DeKalb County, as the metro area grows, is a priority and will help maintain quality of life for all residents,” Jester said in a press release.
Lambert said the city envisions a natural trail system in the new park that would remain mostly green space. There will be public meetings with all the surrounding neighborhoods to get input on an overall plan, he said. Those meetings would likely take place in the summer, he said.
“We have concept plan of what like to do and now that the city owns the park, we can actually survey it and mark it” for trails, Lambert said.
“The Waterford community was in favor of a trail system. What city has to do now is secure easements to connect the neighborhoods,” he said.
City funds will be used to tear out the swimming pool and refurbish the tennis courts. The property is currently not safe for public use, Lambert said, and demolition and cleanup of the area is expected to start in the spring. Bids are out now to do this cleanup, he said.
The property backs up to and includes a portion of Kingsley Lake, but the city plans to make that inaccessible to the public.
Lambert said the city expects it has enough money in its current Parks Department budget to build the natural trails, but the cost to do so is not yet known. How much it will cost to maintain the park is also unknown. The purchase comes at a time when the city’s budget is tight and concerns have been raised by officials specifically about rising costs to maintain parks.
“As of right now, projects over the next couple of months including demolition of the pool will be coming out of our general operating budget,” Lambert said.
“The Parks Department has money … and as we start to build a plan for the park, deciding on the type of playground, bathrooms, all of that will be budgeted in future years,” he said.
The Waterford Neighborhood Association agreed to sell the property for $125,000 even though the city had it appraised at $440,000. WNA President Travis Hussing said attempts in the past to sell to developers failed because nearly all the land is in a floodplain.
“We were told the land was not that valuable [by developers] and that we probably couldn’t get much more than what the city was offering,” he said.
Selling the property was not an easy decision for the neighborhood, Hussing said. But the tennis courts and swimming pool eventually became too expensive to maintain as fewer residents decided to join the WNA and pay annual fees to cover expenses, he said.
The pool has been empty for about two years and the tennis courts are overgrown with grass and weeds. An attempt to create a homeowners’ association that would have allowed the neighborhood to take out a loan to pay for the $125,000 in repairs needed just for the pool was unsuccessful.
“This has been an ongoing struggle for at least 10 to 15 years … just keeping the pool, paying bills, taxes, making repairs was all too expensive,” Hussing said. “If you don’t have a consistent membership, there is no money.”
Hussing said the WNA plans to reimburse membership dues to those who paid them over the past two years with the $125,000 sale. The neighborhood plans to have future meetings to decide how to spend the rest of the money, he said. As a nonprofit, the WNA can only spend the money to make improvements to the neighborhood.
“The money will stay in our community,” he said. “We’re relieved to put this behind us.”
Hussing said the city’s desire to create a park was a key reason to sell because residents would be able to have a place to come together as a community as they once did at the swim and racquet club.
The city also agreed to some of the WNA’s requests as part of the sale, including building a new playground, he said. As part of the sale, city also agreed to install a security camera and license plate reader in the neighborhood and promised there would be no programming such as tennis tournaments.
“We decided to sell to the city so the neighborhood can keep a space to gather that hopefully increases our home values or keep them consistent,” Hussing said.