In the mid-1980s, Bill Grant was driving through Dunwoody with his then-teenage daughter when a particularly scruffy patch of land at the intersection of Ashford-Dunwoody and Mount Vernon roads caught his attention.
“I saw the triangle down there and said, ‘it’s just a mess, I wish someone would fix that,’” Grant said.
His daughter shot back, “why don’t you?” Grant said.
Grant, a Dunwoody builder and a board member of the Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce, decided there was no reason why he shouldn’t go out and clean up the intersection himself.
And with that, Dunwoody’s Adopt-A-Spot program was born.
Before Dunwoody was a city, Grant became the unofficial coordinator of a loosely-organized effort to beautify some of the community’s busiest intersections.
“Somehow this became my project,” Grant said. “People would call me up and say, ‘I want to take care of an island or spot.’”
At one point, Grant said, state officials even called him to talk about the changes they were planning to make to the Ashford-Dunwoody triangle he had landscaped.
When Dunwoody became a city, the city government officially took over the effort and named it Adopt-A-Spot. Through the Adopt-A-Spot program, businesses or civic groups sign an agreement with the city to maintain a stretch of right of way. Each sponsor gets to display a sign in their spot, recognizing that they maintain it.
Dunwoody Public Works Director Michael Smith said a map on the city’s website shows spots that are available for people to “adopt.”
“Most of them are at visible, prominent locations,” he said. “It’s a combination of geography and where there’s actually space to do landscaping without impeding flow of traffic.”
Smith said the volunteer intersection maintenance is a benefit to the city.
“Any additional maintenance of the right of way provides cost relief to the city. It would be cost prohibitive for the city to adequately maintain all the rights of way,” Smith said.
Grant has been looking after several intersections in Dunwoody for about 25 years. Currently, he takes care of five in the Dunwoody Village area.
“It’s exceptionally rewarding to me,” he said.
Grant said keeping up with his spots doesn’t take much money or effort. And he said he enjoys doing it because people really seem to appreciate it.
“I have people I’ve never seen in my life walk into my office and thank me,” Grant said. “It’s fun to do stuff when you feel like other people are recognizing and appreciating it.”
Grant has plans to keep improving the intersection that started everything. On the right of way where Ashford-Dunwoody and Mount Vernon meet, he said he would like to join with neighbors in the area to buy some benches and an American flag.
Grant’s original motivation to just get out there and fix something also spawned another Dunwoody institution. Soon after he started maintaining the triangle at Ashford-Dunwoody and Mount Vernon, someone suggested he put Christmas lights onto the large holly bush that used to grow at the intersection to make it festive for the holiday season.
“It turned into Light Up Dunwoody,” Grant said, referring to the city’s annual tree lighting ceremony. “It took on a life of its own.”