As the city works on a master plan for its next decade of park improvements, a dog park is among the few items known to be under discussion.
But what else may be proposed by advocates is unknown as an advisory group’s meetings have been conducted without minutes being written down and without notice on the usual city calendar. There was only one general public meeting and the process is relying heavily on a mailed survey that has to be redone after accidentally only going to a small piece of the city.
The revisions to the master plan will detail the current parks and facilities and determine what needs to be added or improved, according to the city. The city started the master plan work in December with a working group meeting before an advisory group was appointed in January. The advisory group plans to make a final presentation to City Council in November. The city hopes to approve the plan by the end of the year, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said.
An update presented to City Council Aug. 21, and a longer form of it presented to the advisory group, doesn’t discuss any specific parks and projects. The process has focused mostly on demographics and is based around a survey that in error only included the city’s “urban core.”
The consultant doing the survey accidentally used boundaries from a file that was used for a road project, which only included the center of the city around Roswell Road and Ga. 400, Perry said.
The work, which is being led by Barge Design Solutions, a local consulting firm, will be redone correctly with no extra cost to the city, he said.
The officials involved declined to discuss what specific projects are being dicussed. Minutes from advisory group meetings where they were discussed do not exist, according to the city.
“We should have kept minutes, no doubt about it,” said Michael Perry, the director of recreation and parks.
The advisory group has discussed “numerous” specific projects and initiatives, but Ken Dishman, a former City Council member who chairs the group, declined to name any and referred questions to the parks department.
“We are focused on a comprehensive strategy for the entire city,” Dishman said.
Perry said it was “too early to say” what major parks projects could be included in the final master plan.
But Dishman did confirm that a dog park is on the group’s list of needs. City Manager John McDonough mentioned during budget discussion in May that the city is working on dog park proposal, but has not yet released details about it.
Some of the group’s general priorities include making the parks more accessible and easy for residents to use and providing connectivity within the city and to other jurisdictions, including the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Areas, Dishman said.
According to the appointment resolution, the members of the advisory group and who they represent are: Cheryl Barlow, Sandy Springs Conservancy and Friends of Lost Corner; Scott Busch, Steel Canyon Golf Course; Mark Durbin, “logistics expert”; Danny Martin, Heritage Sandy Springs; George Northrop, Heritage Sandy Springs; and Molly Welsh, landscape professional.
“I think we’ve got a really great group that’s advocating for needs across the city,” Dishman said.
The advisory group has met three times — on Feb. 27, June 12 and Aug. 12, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said. The meeting notices were posted on the city’s “community events” calendar instead of the public meetings calendar, where most government meetings are publicized.
“People are used to seeing [recreation and parks] activities on that calendar, so the meetings were posted there for maximum viewing,” Kraun said in an email.
A working group meeting held in December that included city staff called for two public meetings, one on the north side and one on the south side, according to meeting minutes.
One public meeting was held in April at the old City Hall, largely discussing general demographic information. There are no plans to hold another public meeting, according to city officials.
“I don’t think it’s needed because of all that data that’s been collected through the survey and other input,” said Dishman.
That input has also included private meetings with “focus groups” with leaders from various organizations, some of which have previously proposed major green space projects.
Some of the organizations met with include the Sandy Springs Conservancy, Leadership Sandy Springs, Sandy Springs Hospitality and Tourism, the Fulton County School Board, the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods and the Sandy Springs Environmental Project.
The Sandy Springs Conservancy has pushed for a plan to build a trail system that would eventually connect Morgan Falls to Dunwoody.
The conservancy and the Sandy Springs Environmental Project have previously jointly proposed brining additional green space to the wild area behind the Sandy Springs Tennis Center.
A focus group was held with the neighbors of Old Riverside Park, which was proposed in 2012 and would have brought a 20-acre park near the riverfront, but was controversial and opposed by many in the neighborhood.