DeKalb County may buy and preserve old forest

A 21-acre forest featuring dozens of old-growth trees may be preserved after it had previously been considered for residential development.

The DeKalb County Commission unanimously authorized spending $9.8 million from park bond funds last week to buy Briarlake Forest, which is located in central DeKalb.

Most of the land would remain untouched, but trails and a dog park could be built, said Richard Marion, president of the Briarlake Community Forest Alliance, a neighborhood group that opposed development.

“It’s become a pristine forest that’s enjoyed by people who walk, bicycle and run in the area,” Marion said. “This purchase is the best thing the county could do for this tract of land, and the neighborhoods, citizens and communities are very appreciative.”

The forest contains about 60 trees with trunks larger than 30 inches, many of which are more than 100 years old, he said.

A developer, TPA-Arrowhead Real Estate Partners, had envisioned building 43 homes on the land, but the DeKalb Planning Commission voted down a sketch plat last month. Marion's group was concerned about stormwater runoff, traffic and the impact on streams that fed into two lakes.

“This is the largest remaining undeveloped piece of land in District 2,” said Commissioner Jeff Rader, whose district covers west-central DeKalb. “It’s usable as green space.”

The amount of money allocated to buy the land is consistent with the property owner’s demands, and the sale could close within 45 days after an environmental review is completed, Rader said.

The forest is located near Briarlake Elementary School and west of Northlake Mall, at the intersection of Briarlake Road and Amberwood Drive.