By John Schaffner
The Chastain Park Civic Association (CPCA) wants to find a permanent fix for what it has been told is illegal parking along the sides of Lake Forrest Drive and some areas along West Wieuca Road during sports seasons and special events in the park.
That parking problem, along with recent security and crime issues and the recurring discussion of whether to limit vehicle traffic on Park Drive and make it primarily a pedestrian mall, captured much of the discussion at the civic association’s annual meeting April 27 at the Galloway School.
During his recap of recent accomplishments, CPCA President Jim King made it clear the major concern of the association is “the integrity and safety of our neighborhoods.”
The association represents some 20 neighborhoods around Chastain Park in both Buckhead and Sandy Springs.
“Things are getting congested in our neighborhoods,” King said.
He credited Sandy Springs Dist. 6 Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny with making progress on the synchronization of traffic lights along Roswell Road and Atlanta Dist. 8 Councilwoman Clair Muller for making progress on the speed of vehicles passing through the area, especially along Powers Ferry Road and Lake Forrest Drive.
But King indicated there are persistent questions as to whether more surveillance cameras are needed on the north side of the park and what should be done about Park Drive — whether it should be essentially closed to vehicle traffic.
King said the association asked Muller to seek reduced speed limits on Lake Forrest Drive and Powers Ferry Road and requested greater enforcement of the speed limits from the Atlanta Police Department.
The CPCA president reported he had just learned there is no legal parking along Lake Forrest Drive on the east side of the park, primarily because the law does not allow parking anywhere in official bike lanes, and there are bike lanes on both sides of Lake Forrest along Chastain Park.
He said he also recently learned that the “No Parking” signs along Lake Forrest and in other areas around the park, although they look like temporary signs, are legal, and the parking ban can be enforced in those areas.
But Sgt. Barry Miller, a retired Atlanta police officer who heads up the Chastain Park Security Patrol, and Atlanta Zone 2 police Officer James Day, who works the Chastain Park beat, said there is not sufficient marking of the bike lanes and not enough coverage of the area with “No Parking” signs to ensure citations would stand up if challenged in court.
Day, however, said he is increasing enforcement of illegal parking and recently wrote seven citations in one day.
King pointed out that the illegal parking problem is caused largely because the majority of the available parking is in lots at the north end of the park, above West Wieuca, while most of the regular activities take place south of West Wieuca. He said a way must be found to communicate to people to park in the Red, Blue and Green parking lots, which are close to the Chastain Amphitheater and have plenty of spaces.
King asked the crowd of about 30 at the meeting for ideas of how to handle the parking problem. He said one suggestion at a recent board meeting was to bar parking on the south side of West Wieuca near the ball fields, which would eliminate about 20 spaces and let the area be used for dropping off and picking up children who participate in sports.
King said the association has started putting up orange cones at fire hydrants and places where it wants to eliminate street parking for resident safety. He said people generally will refrain from parking where the cones are placed.
Another suggestion was that large signs — maybe 6 by 6 feet — be placed in strategic areas, boldly stating “You will be towed” if you park illegally. And that threat would have to be enforced.
Another person suggested having the Northside Youth Organization announce the parking rules before games. Another suggested having the sports coaches hold their first team meetings in the Red parking lot and explain that it is where players’ families should park and then walk the team members to the field to demonstrate how easy it is.
The emphasis was on getting people to park in the Red and Blue lots instead of illegally along the streets.
The other traffic issue discussed was limiting traffic on Park Drive at the north end of the park to vehicles dropping off people and items such as picnic ice chests. The idea is to force people to park in the lots and follow three paths and crosswalks to the ball fields.
Those attending the meeting approved a motion to have the association “actively support enforcement of no-parking areas along Lake Forrest Drive and West Wieuca; to pursue with the city the placement of more no-parking signs and proper marking of bike lanes along Lake Forrest Drive, and investigate the viability of parking on just one side of West Wieuca near the ball fields.”
That discussion was followed by a presentation by Sandy Springs police Lt. Steve Rose, Miller and Day related to the most common crimes in the area and how people can protect themselves from becoming victims of those crimes.
The most frequent crimes are thefts from cars (GPS units and laptop computers being prime targets), burglaries (80 percent to 85 percent at apartments by door kickers), and door-to-door or shopping center solicitation scams.