Since 2010, the city of Dunwoody has remade Brook Run Park. The 100-acre park now includes an expanded community garden, miles of hiking trails, a zip-line-based entertainment complex and a new dog park.
“I don’t think they did much with it when it was a DeKalb County park,” Dunwoody resident Kerry May said. “I think they cleared some land and leveled some buildings. Once it became part of Dunwoody, they did the playground and the path and the community garden.”
Brook Run wasn’t always a park. The Georgia Retardation Center used to occupy much of what is now Brook Run Park. DeKalb County demolished many of the center’s buildings, which opened up more areas for improvements, Parks Director Brent Walker said.
The park’s master plan, originally written in 2010, will be updated next year, Walker said, so community members and park enthusiasts can provide feedback to the city as to what kinds of amenities they want to see in the remaining acres.
Walker said the 12 acres where the retardation center’s hospital sat provide a lot of opportunity for Brook Run Park. Waving his hand toward a large field, Walker said the back of the park is full of potential.
“When we took over this was a dead zone; nobody ever came back here,” Walker said.
He added that some people have considered the area dangerous. Others said it was haunted by souls of people who allegedly suffered under the state-run operations.
May remembers the old hospital from the 1970s. She said during a two-week rotation she studied nursing in the hospital, and then she laughed at how long she’s been around Dunwoody.
“We moved to the area in ’93, but I went to nursing school in ’76 or ’77, and we came here as part of our rotation,” she said.
May noted that many people don’t know about the history of their park.
“It was really a remarkable place,” May said, adding that the people who lived in the center worked and lived in what residents now know as a park.
Buildings left over from the Georgia Retardation Center included a dormitory building, which Dunwoody approved for demolition earlier this year. The last remaining pieces of the foundation are currently being destroyed.
Some Dunwoody residents want a theater building left over from the retardation center to be reopened in the future as a performing arts center. The Dunwoody City Council in April started the process to determine how much it would cost to fix the deteriorating building.
A playground and restroom sit across the road. Heading from the North Peachtree entrance past the playground and toward the back of the park, visitors have the skate park.
DeKalb County recreation officials installed the skate park before the city of Dunwoody was created.
They found they lost money when they charged for admission, Walker said. City officials paid skate park staff for the first year the city operated the facility, he said, then looked for an alternative.
Now the skate park is free to use and the building previously used to admit people to the skating area is set to become a concession area, where visitors can purchase drinks and snacks.
“Usage shot up,” Walker said.
While Brook Run Park had for years provided recreation for families, gardeners, walkers and skaters, nothing really unified and connected the park until its two-mile multiuse trail was completed in 2014.
“Skate parks are great, but they’re for a very specific group of people,” Walker said.
The multiuse trail provides access to the various sections of the park and it connects the park with the community because anyone can use the trail.
“All the slopes are ADA compliant; we want everybody to come out here,” Walker said. “That’s the beautiful thing about the multiuse trail.”
Walker said the long-term goal is to connect the 3 ½- mile trail system from Georgetown to Perimeter Mall.
And that’s not the end of it.
“The ultimate goal is to find a way for us to connect to Sandy Springs to get over to the Ga. 400 trail, which connects to the BeltLine,” he said.
“So who knows, one day you might be able to park here and get all the way down to Midtown on a paved pathway,” Walker said.