Park trail draws opposition in Dunwoody

In the next week or so, crews are scheduled to begin clearing close to 330 trees from one of metro Atlanta’s largest parks in order to convert an old nature path into a 12-foot-wide, concrete multiuse trail.

Dunwoody is pouring $320,000 of its own money into constructing what it hopes will be a major amenity to one of its greatest assets, the 102-acre Brook Run Park on North Peachtree Road.

City leaders began exploring the idea two years ago and were awarded a $100,000 state grant to kick-start the project. They remain convinced, after more than a dozen public meetings and input from residents, that the new trail will provide opportunities for walking, running and cycling on a path solely designated for those uses.

Not everyone, however, is on board with the plan. For months, an informal alliance of naturalists, homeowners and tea party activists has spoken out against the project, appearing at City Council meetings and circulating petitions across town.

“It irritates me, the lack of common sense shown on local projects and a disproportionate weight that’s given to cyclists in Dunwoody lately,” said local builder James Kelley, who was one of several dozen people who attended a rally this weekend at the park. “I don’t understand why you have to cut a 22-foot-wide swath, pave 12 feet of it with concrete just so the bikers can have a place to ride.”

Volunteers wandered the path, dressing many of the trees marked for elimination along the route in yellow ribbons.

The city says it has taken every effort to map the route to avoid as many trees as possible, especially hardwoods. It also says the concrete surface was not only the most durable but the most cost-effective material for the project.

Further, the city has stated repeatedly at public meetings that a hydrologist’s study concluded no measurable increase in water runoff because of the trail, and there will be a 100-foot buffer between the trail and adjacent properties.

Despite those assurances, many homeowners in the nearby Lakeview Oaks subdivision worry the concrete surface, coupled with the loss of trees, is a recipe for flooding.

“Our homes are at risk of flooding if increased volume of water descends onto our properties during heavy rainstorms,” Hilbert Margol said.

Another Lakeview Oaks resident, Beverly Armento, attended public meetings through most of the year, asking city leaders to reconsider their plans.

“Our main concerns are sediment control and control of the excess rainwater runoff,” she said. “We’ve been actively lobbying the council for months now to pay attention to the two water basins in the park.”

Others at Saturday’s rally seemed more committed to preserving what had taken decades to produce.

“You know, we’re building a city here, and I’d like to see it built right,” Jeff Coghill said.

Resident Bobbi Sedam was at the park passing out fliers, talking to neighbors and strangers about the project, resolute in her opposition. She knows the machinery is due to arrive soon, but she’s keeping any further plans to herself.

“I don’t know, but I’m not quitting,” she said. “This is such a crazy thing to do.”