A new playground at Brookhaven’s Murphey Candler Park is open to the public after plans were delayed to minimize tree removal. 

The playground opened March 19. It is one of the many projects associated with the city’s $40 million parks bond, which was passed in 2018 and set aside $8.9 million for updates to Murphey Candler Park. The playground features such activities as a climbing castle, a tightrope bridge, a double swing set and a walkway, according to a press release. 

“I could not be more excited about the future of Murphey Candler Park,” said Mayor John Ernst in the press release.  “These improvements will have a lasting and positive impact on the park, the lake, and the Murphey Candler neighborhood.”

Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst and District 1 Councilmember Linley Jones cutting the ribbon at Murphey Candler Park’s new playground.

The playground sits in the east side of Murphey Candler Park, which is located at 1551 West Nancy Creek Drive. The playground backs up to Horseshoe Loop Road, or the “loop road,” which has been just one of many points of contention for the park bond. 

Since the park bond’s approval, some residents have expressed concerns about the city’s plan to reopen the loop road, which has been gated for decades, because of traffic and environmental concerns. The playground, which was originally supposed to be finished in November,  was pushed back from a January completion date to “rework early plans to minimize tree removal,” according to the press release.

Around Christmas, the city cut down 14 trees in the park, rekindling debate about the already controversial park bond and the opening of the loop road. The city plans to open and repave the loop road, which has been gated for decades, and add in new parking spaces. In addition to issues with tree-cutting, residents have expressed concern that opening the loop road to traffic would make it unsafe for children at the playground. 

The Murphey Candler Park Neighborhood Association started a petition last year to halt construction on the loop road. At a July 2020 Brookhaven City Council meeting, MCNA President Zane Douglass asked the city to pause work on the road so that residents’ concerns could be addressed.  

In February, the city held an “open house” for residents to see early renderings of another park bond project, a public “lake house” in Murphey Candler Park. A community center was originally proposed for the spot, but after a 10-month public input process the city decided to move forward with a smaller facility in keeping with the area’s natural character.

According to a park bond update from February, construction is expected to begin on the loop road following the completion of construction on a community green, which is slated to begin this spring.