First, George Dusenbury, Atlanta’s parks, recreation and cultural affairs commissioner, said his department will receive $1 million and $2 million over the next five years to implement into city parks.
“The most challenged area is Buckhead,” Dusenbury said. “We’re working on a five-year plan to replace equipment. … We need to prioritize.”
He said his department has a new vision to place parks within a half-mile walk for every family in the area.
One example is clearing land in Chastain Park where the Atlanta Department of Public Works has 15 acres occupied by a fueling station in the middle of the golf course in the southern end of the park.
However, Dusenbury said they would have to reconfigure the golf course to do anything productive with the land.
“We would engage the conservancy and the community,” he said. “I want to emphasize we are looking at that space as how it interrelates to whole park.”
Council chair Jim King said the “trapped woods” behind the depot, which is also referred to as “Magnolia trail” could be finally uncovered.
“We’ve been trying to get in there for years,” King said. “It’s called the ‘opportunity site’ of the park’s master plan.”
In other news, a group called the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper has been testing local neighborhoods’ water quality for the past two and a half years.
“We’re a nonprofit environmental group dedicated to the protection of the Chattahoochee and all its tributaries,” said Technical Programs Director Jason Ulseth. “This is where most of the real pollution take place.”
Collier Hills was Riverkeeper’s first testing area and its has expanded to 23 sites since then. Ulseth said they work out of a “state-of-the-art” Environmental Protection Agency lab to figure out how clean the “urban stream” is and what issues may be going on, such as illegal dumping or failing septic lines.
“Streams are dynamic based on seasonal fluxes and rain events, [so] we can’t go out and take sample today and say, ‘This water is polluted or it’s not,” he said. “We need routine long-term, baseline data. This is a real public concern and water pollution is a major threat.”
Finally, District 7 Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook, who represents Buckhead, joined the controversial conversation regarding a new commercial development project near the Lindbergh MARTA station, which is in his district.
“The developer wants to take a 21-acre portion of much larger area,” Shook said about the development. “It’s all governed by a law called SPI-15.”
He said it is widely rumored that there will be a Walmart and smaller retail stores, making the lot slightly than half still remaining residential.
“Boy do people hate Walmart,” Shook said. “I don’t mean to disparage people who do. There’s a lot of material out there saying they have terrible business practices and labor practices, ... and that they’re bad corporate neighbors.”
He said he is not in support of the project but he is in “listening mode.”
“I’m an optimist,” Shook said. “The more people talk, some kind of consensus will begin to emerge.”
Shook said the Neighborhood Planning Unit-B zoning committee voted 19-3-1 against the proposed development but the city’s Zoning Review Board voted 4-1 to approve it. Now, it is being held with the city council’s zoning committee and the next meeting for review is Aug. 20.
“Neighborhoods want you to vote no,” King said to Shook at the end of the meeting.
“I’m afraid it’s going to pass anyways though,” Shook said in response. “If this was a corner drugstore that people couldn’t stand, I’d take care of it."