Several residents and Dunwoody City Council members are raising concerns about the planned renovations to Brook Run Park and the number of trees that may be cut down to make way for new amenities.
The mayor and council voted April 9 to approve a preconstruction services contract for $15,250 to Reeves + Young. That company joins Lose & Associates, hired in February for $324,000 to design phase one of the Brook Run Park master plan that includes the two multiuse fields at the back of the park; the Great Lawn, to include a stage and pavilion; more parking; a new vehicular entrance at Barclay Drive; a new open play field and a disc golf course.
Recent sightings of ribbons tied around many trees in the park have caused anxiety among some residents and council members who fear they are being marked for getting the ax. Eric Johnson of Comprehensive Program Services said there are currently no trees marked for felling. The city hired Comprehensive Program Services, which also oversaw the City Hall renovations, for $150,000 to oversee the first phase of the Brook Run Park master plan.
“The message needs to be, we want minimal tree loss,” Councilmember Lynn Deutsch said.
“Those ribbons were for a tree survey,” Johnson said. “The message is clear [about saving as many trees as possible]. We’ve had our first round of discussions with Lose & Associates … and they are trying to save as many trees as possible.”
Councilmember John Heneghan noted that the request for proposal document for the Reeves + Young contract shows trees being removed in early June.
“We need more planning and community involvement to make sure we know what is actually going on … and to understand what trees are going to be removed,” he said.
Johnson explained that a timetable is needed as part of the RFP process, but because of several factors, the timeline is already behind by about two months. So no tree removal would begin until possibly August.
Heneghan noted the anger and worry raised by residents living near Peachtree Charter Middle School where new baseball fields are being constructed for use by the school and Dunwoody Senior Baseball. Last-minute changes to the field plans due to size restrictions resulted in more than 100 trees being cut down along North Peachtree Road and Barclay Drive. The city has planted several trees to replace them as part of its one-for-one policy, but they are not as large as the ones cut down.
“We thought we were getting a certain product … but a bunch of trees were cut down that affected the community,” Heneghan said. “We don’t want major changes happening at the last minute.”
Johnson said once a final design is determined by Lose & Associates, it will come to the council for consideration and there would also be a community meeting to gather input. There is no set deadline for when Lose & Associates will have a design, but the preliminary timeline has the Brook Run Park renovations being completed in early 2019.
Parks and Recreation Director Brent Walker also explained that the RFP includes concept designs and are not the final plans for the first phase of the project. Phase one has about a $5.2 million budget, he said.
During public comment, Harriet White, who lives in the Windwood North neighborhood, said she was concerned many trees would be cut down.
“I think a lot of people in Dunwoody, and in my neighborhood … our priority is for trees not to be removed,” she said. “It is not what we want.”
Mayor Denis Shortal said the city always tries to keep as many trees as possible.
“We don’t go cutting down willy-nilly,” he said. “But certain improvements need to be made … at intersections … and we need to take trees down. We do plant back for each tree we take down. I know they aren’t as big, but we do plant trees.”
Shortal also noted that when the city approved a 12-foot concrete path through Brook Run Park in 2012, their was incredible backlash from residents angry about the removal of trees. Several lawsuits were also filed to try to stop the construction of the trail.
Today, though, it is one of the most used facilities in the park, Shortal said.
“We do have a heavy tree canopy in the city, equal to Brookhaven and Chamblee. We work hard to save as many trees as we can,” he said.
The Brook Run Park master plan was revealed last May after several months of public input.