A redesigned Lynwood Park master plan that includes a splash pad and swimming pool is set to be approved by the Brookhaven City Council Jan. 14. Neighborhood residents say they are looking forward to the new amenities, but are also worried about them attracting visitors and creating more traffic gridlock along their streets.
The splash pad replaces a “lazy river,” a shallow pool that floats like a river, approved by voters just over a year ago as part of a $40 million parks bond referendum. But the lazy river was controversial with many residents. Some alleged it was not included in the public master planning process. Others questioned why a lazy river, popular in water parks and resorts, was being built in a small neighborhood park. In response, city officials decided to look at other options.
“The original project design infamously included the lazy river, as you all know,” City Councilmember Linley Jones said to a crowd of some 50 people at a Jan. 9 town hall.
“Since that time based on community feedback, not in an organized community meeting like this, but we’ve gotten all kinds of feedback in emails and had personal contacts and everything else … the feeling was to move away [from the lazy river],” she said.
She and Mayor John Ernst co-hosted the town hall at the Lynwood Park recreation center to discuss the revised master plan. Ernst said while input was welcome at the meeting, the project was not going to be delayed.
“We are at the point now where this project is going to happen,” he said at the start of the meeting.
The resolution approving the master plan change is necessary to ensure the city meets the ballot language of what was approved by the voters. A similar resolution was approved for the new Briarwood Park pool now under construction.
The volunteer parks bond oversight committee recommended last year doing away with the lazy river and over the past several months has been reviewing concepts for a splash pad. The committee’s final recommendation of an approximately 4,200-square-foot splash pad coupled with a 4-lane lap pool that could also be used as a recreational swimming pool is what the council will vote to approve at its Jan. 14 meeting. The swimming pool’s depth would range from two to five feet.
“But I did not want anything to proceed without us having a meeting like this, where everybody knows we’re meeting about it, where everyone can give input and feedback and where … nobody is surprised when the project starts going into the ground,” Jones said.
Of the $40 million parks bond, roughly $11 million was set aside to renovate and improve Lynwood Park. Approximately $5 million is budgeted for the water features. The remaining $6 million will be used to build a new pool house, restrooms and cover a grassy athletic field with artificial turf, among other projects that were part of the original master plan.
The construction for all projects is expected to begin at the same time in September under one contract. Plans are to have the aquatic features finished by next May. Other projects could be finished at the same time or a few months later.
Although the town hall was advertised to focus on water features, most of the people attending were concerned about what would be happening on the land, specifically traffic and where new crowds visiting Lynwood Park to use the new amenities would put their cars.
“We’re going to drive traffic, we’re going to have parking problems, we’re going to have congestion,” said Harley Karseboom, a three-year resident of Lynwood Park.
“We’re more than happy to have the park beautiful … but we’re just concerned with how we’re going to deal with the influx of cars,” he said.
Lynwood Park, once an African American enclave with its own school, has narrow streets. Residents said roads are already gridlocked with traffic during sporting events at the park’s sports field. Cars often line both sides of residential streets, making movement already challenging, said others.
“On a given day when you have your soccer, your softball games, baseball games [there’s traffic] … either cut down the schedule of what’s going on down here or we’re going to have a nightmare when this is all finished,” said Barbara Shaw, a longtime resident.
One person suggested creating an overflow parking lot at Osborne Park, a wooded area across Devine Circle from Lynwood Park and accessible from the dead-end of Osborne Road. Another asked about a shuttle service from a nearby church’s parking lot.
City Manager Christian Sigman said there might not be an increase in traffic after construction is completed. Any traffic or parking adjustments would have to be addressed after the projects are built out and evaluated, he said.
Jones said after the meeting the city is “very sensitive” to the parking concerns of Lynwood Park residents. But because of the narrow roads of the historic neighborhood, parking is an ongoing problem, she said.
This story has been updated to attribute the statement about parking in the historic neighborhood to Councilmember Linley Jones.