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Posted by on December 12, 2012.

Former Dunwoody councilman: All we wanted is a walking trail

Danny Ross

Danny Ross

To the editor:

In just a few days, bulldozers and chain saws are scheduled to arrive at Brook Run Park, one of the last urban forests in our community, to construct the equivalent of one lane of I-285,  where speeds of 70 mph are allowed, and in some areas cut down enough trees (a 50-foot-wide swath) to build four lanes on I-285.  Over 330 trees will be cut to make way for this so called multi-use trail.  It does not make sense!

Two years ago, the city completed a master plan with significant community input.  During the development of the plan, the consulting firm conducted a survey and found that the number one desire of the citizens was to have “walking trails” through the park.

The City Council, of which I was one of the members, authorized the director of parks and recreation to seek out grant funds to construct this trail.

Before becoming a park, Brook Run had previously been home to the Georgia Retardation Center.  Many years ago, six-foot trails were built to provide walking paths for the residents.  Over the years, these trails deteriorated.  In 2011, the city received a $100,000 grant to construct an eight-foot wide trail in the location of the original trails.  This made sense.  Without cutting any of the urban forest the entire trail (1.3 miles) could be completed and the city would only have to pay $30,000.

But somewhere along the way from issuing a request for proposal (RFP) to awarding the contract, the trail morphed into a .7-mile, impervious concrete trail (half the length of the planned trail) with a price tag of $420,000 (more than three times the cost of the original 1.3-mile pervious asphalt trail).

A second phase is planned where even more trees will be destroyed and the total cost of the 1.3 mile project will increase to an estimated $800,000.  After deducting the $100,000 grant, the city will pay $700,000 for a trail that originally was scheduled to cost the city only $30,000 out of pocket.

No public meetings were conducted during this period because the city manager felt it was not necessary to solicit public input.  After all, we were only increasing the width of the trail by 50 percent at an out of pocket cost increase of 23.33 times the original plan.

As a member of the council at the time, I voted for the 8- foot- wide asphalt trail, believing it met the needs reflected in our parks survey at a reasonable cost to the city.  It would provide a walking trail that the citizens had indicated was a needed and desirable feature in the park.  Families could safely walk the trail, pushing strollers or teaching their children to ride their bikes.

Now a retired councilman, I am opposed to the new plan and do not believe the benefits derived from decapitating our forest to construct this amenity are worth the cost.

We are attempting to construct a Dunwoody version of the Silver Comet Trail, a 100-mile, multi-purpose trail that stretches from Atlanta to Anniston, Ala.  When this 12-foot, combination concrete and asphalt trail was constructed, not a single tree had to be cut down, because an existing railroad bed was repurposed.  The trail is straight and the grade is no more than 5 percent.

As a biker, I have ridden the 400-mile Bicycle Ride Across Georgia twice in the past eight years.  I ride the Silver Comet Trail several times each year, but neither I nor any serious biker will travel to Brook Run to bike .7 of a mile over hilly topography and on a curving and potentially dangerous trail.

This project needs to be stopped and rethought before damage is done to our forest and the two streams that flow through Brook Run.  We do not need the equivalent of a lane of I-285 cutting through Brook Run. After all, all we wanted is a walking trail.

— Danny Ross, former Dunwoody city councilman