Dogwood Festival traffic plan raises concern in Midtown

People who live near Atlanta's Piedmont Park enjoy festival season and have learned not to quibble over some issues such as how difficult it is to find a parking place when the large crowds come into their neighborhood.

There could be a problem when one big event comes to the park in April. The Atlanta Dogwood Festival organizers have discussed closing portions of busy 10th Street for the three-day event to accommodate the children's area.

Festival planners sent the city a traffic plan that would prohibit vehicles on 10th Street between Charles Allen and Monroe drives, except for access to Grady High School. The change would be from 7 p.m. April 15 through April 18. The plan would close two west-bound lanes on 10th Street between Charles Allen Drive and Myrtle Avenue. .

Tenth Street is one of the main east-west thoroughfares in northeast Atlanta, and some residents say the plan would create a traffic nightmare.

"We don't understand why they can't contain the Dogwood Festival in (Piedmont Park)," said Ken Saunders, who lives on 10th Street, across from the park. "There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who would be impacted by this."

Festival executive director Brian Hill said the space on 10th Street is needed for the children's activity area and an area where patrons can learn about the benefits of composting. Space in the park they hoped to use for the children's area is under construction, he said.

"Our intention is not to inconvenience anyone," Hill said.

Saunders called Hill's explanation "lame" and said organizers could use other space in the park.

The festival, celebrating its 74th anniversary, is projected to draw about 85,000 people.

The city's License Review Board must approve the festival's application to sell liquor at the event. The board's decision is often based on the recommendation of an area's Neighborhood Planning Unit, which is scheduled to meet early next month. NPU leaders have questions about the traffic plan and awaiting more information about it.

Community leaders are talking about the plan, and many have called Alex Wan, their new councilman. Wan said he is working on options that could make everyone happy, such as finding additional space in Piedmont Park.

"It's a fairly significant closure of a fairly significant thoroughfare," Wan said.

Each day, about 23,510 vehicles travel on 10th Street between Piedmont Avenue and Monroe Drive, the eastern and western boundaries of the park, state transportation officials said.

Hill said traffic runs better during the festival than most spring weekends because the festival has 40 or so police officers patrolling the area. Hill said he's waiting on recommendations from the police department that could resolve the matter.

Geoff Rogers, chair of the Midtown Neighbors' Association's license and permit committee, is working with organizers on solutions.

"I would anticipate it would make moving around very difficult," he said of the current plan. "Our intention is to work with (the festival) to make sure the event is going to be a success."