A master plan six years in the making for Brookhaven’s namesake park is nearing completion after the city agreed to purchase the remaining 7 acres from DeKalb County for slightly more than $2 million. A final community meeting is being planned before the plan goes to the City Council for a vote next month.
The council voted unanimously Nov. 13 to approve spending $2.2 million to buy about 7.2 acres of the front portion of Brookhaven Park from DeKalb County. The money for the purchase will come from a $40 million parks bond approved by voters on Nov. 7.
The purchase of the front portion of Brookhaven Park will be finalized in January when the bonds are issued, according to city officials, and would bring to close a six-year process of negotiations between the city and county to acquire this section. The city purchased the back 12 acres last year for $100 an acre.
The purchase of the front portion of the park does not include about 3 acres where the DeKalb Services Center and its parking lot are located. The DeKalb Services Center has been located on Osborne Road since 1978 and provides programming for adults with special needs.
The city has argued the land the DeKalb Services Center occupies is park space that should be transferred for $100 an acre and $5,000 for the building. The legislation to create the city of Brookhaven included language that set those amounts. The county argued the property is commercial land and said the city should purchase it for market value. In 2013, that market value was estimated at $4 million.
Councilmember Bates Mattison said at the Nov. 13 meeting he had “angst” about using taxpayer money for a park that residents had already paid for under county control. But the property is such a vital piece for the city and its namesake park, Mattison said, that the final deal is a “great win.”
“Sometimes it does take biting the bullet and moving on,” he said.
Mayor John Ernst said the purchase of the front portion of Brookhaven Park was another “historic” moment for the city after past councils and city officials worked for many years to acquire the land.
Councilmember Joe Gebbia also praised the long-awaited purchase, noting Brookhaven Park is a “statement park” and the purchase would allow the city to ensure the park is a complement to the future development of the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA Station.
Proposed master plans for two parks in one
About 20 members of the Brookhaven Park Conservancy and the Brookhaven Dog Park group gathered Nov. 14 at City Hall to review the proposed Brookhaven Park master plan before it goes before the City Council for a vote in December. A final community meeting was set for the last week of November, but the date was not known at press time.
Brookhaven Park Conservancy members who cared for the park when it was under DeKalb control have long argued to the City Council to prohibit dogs running loose within the approximate 20-acre park in accordance with the city’s leash law.
But the park has been well-known throughout metro Atlanta as an off-leash dog park that city officials have essentially ignored the leash law except in response to specific complaints.
When city officials said the opening of the new Skyland Park this summer with its two small fenced in dog parks would result in officially prohibiting off-leash use at Brookhaven Park, local residents formed the Brookhaven Dog Park alliance. The group successfully lobbied the council to vote in August fence off about 5 acres of the back portion of the park for off-leash dog use.
The compromise resulted in essentially two parks. Members from the different organizations then held separate meetings over the past several months to come up with proposed amenities for their different areas. Those ideas have resulted in the final proposed plan set to go to the council for a vote.
Proposed amenities in the dog park area that is west of the playground area at the center of the park include: a spray pad, dog wash and agility equipment, like poles and tunnels; drinking fountains with pet bowls; rebuilding of the existing pavilion and adding grills and tables; a shade pavilion in the lower field; and more benches and picnic tables.
The “front area” of the park’s proposed amenities include: a new 10,000-square-foot playground area with equipment for different ages; a pavilion with restroom; shaded seating area next to the playground; an expanded community garden area with garden shed and restroom and outdoor work station; and renovation of the existing pavilion.
Proposed general park improvements include: replacing broken pavement with a 10-foot wide concrete path; adding a segment of 10-foot-wide concrete path from the playground area to southern limits of the park for vehicle loading and unloading during festivals; adding a concrete slab to be used as a temporary stage; and improving parking areas to include security cameras and better lighting.
A gateway entrance into the park from Peachtree Road is still being figured out, according to Lose Design officials. Because Peachtree Road is a state road, the plans must be made in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Transportation.
The popular open field area where people play ultimate Frisbee, soccer and kickball remains largely untouched in the proposed plans other than the 40-by-20-foot concrete slab with electrical hook-up located south of the playground area to be used as a temporary stage during festivals.