Seven former DeKalb County parks became Dunwoody property last month, as city officials marked the 165-acre handover by pledging to make several improvements.
Mayor Ken Wright, one of several officials who toured the parks last week, called it an “exciting day” for Dunwoody. “We’re officially in charge of our parks,” he said.
Fixing run-down buildings and defunct amenities are now on the new owners’ to-do list.
In an e-mail to The Champion, Dunwoody Councilmember John Heneghan, who lives near Brook Run Park, further outlined short- and long-term visions for the green space, which include playgrounds, skate parks and dog runs.
“Public safety is my first priority for the Dunwoody parks, whereby the city is doing a full assessment of the facilities and making a punch list of immediate repairs that need to be done.
“Namely locking up the dilapidated buildings at Brook Run, inspecting all playground equipment and restrooms, and then making repairs to the broken facilities like the drinking fountains that were inoperable,” he said.
Several residents have complained that parks were in constant disrepair while under DeKalb County control.
“I would like to see additional benches placed in the parks where they are sorely needed and other cost effective short-term improvements that will have a direct improvement on the quality of enjoyment of those visiting the facilities,” said Heneghan. “After all of that, a City Parks Master Plan and needs assessment needs to be done to see what the community wants us to do next.”
The ongoing process of transferring ownership has strained city and county relations. A March ruling by the Georgia Assembly gave Dunwoody the right to buy land at $100 per acre.
DeKalb officials lobbied for a deal closer to “fair market value,” seeking to recoup maintenance expenses. However, there has been no indication whether the county will take further legal action.
The dispute mirrored an earlier battle between Sandy Springs and Fulton County, with the Georgia Assembly ruling in the city’s favor.
Dunwoody will also receive a $7.5 million bond–funds earmarked for parks maintenance. Wright said this will go toward funding a strategic parks master plan catering to public input.
The city has hired a new parks and recreation manager, Brent Walker, whose appointment was announced the same day Dunwoody assumed ownership of the parks.
“Walker has had a strong record of achievement over the course of his career. He possesses a commitment to not only meet the high expectations of our citizens, but exceed them,” said City Manager Warren Hutmacher, in a press release. “We are thrilled to have him join the Dunwoody team and look forward to developing first-rate parks and recreation in the coming years.”