While a land purchase by the Atlanta City Council last week has helped bring the Mountain Way Common project a step closer to fruition, a north Buckhead resident who lives just a few blocks from the planned 8-acre park has raised concerns about the development harming native wildlife and wants organizers to consider building a smaller park.
Leaders of the two organizations behind the project, Livable Buckhead and the North Buckhead Civic Association, argue plans include steps to protect the land and ecosystem and that Buckhead needs more — not less — public park space.
Elton “Chief” Shepherd visits Little Nancy Creek weekly to take water samples for the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. The creek runs through the proposed park.
Shepherd said he doesn’t oppose a neighborhood park with a few benches and designated greenspace. However, he said the regional park plan is too big for the area and that the PATH400 Trail, a multi-use route parallel to Ga. 400 about 100 feet above the park, will also be detrimental to the creek.
“The major concern is the environmental threats to the Little Nancy Creek watershed,” he said.
Dan Weede, who heads up Friends of Mountain Way Common, said the neighborhood “dodged a bullet” when the city purchased the land beneath 400 and adjacent to Little Nancy Creek that could have been snatched up by a residential developer. Though it is seemingly too narrow, an appraisal of the land deemed it suitable for a single-family home, Weede said.
“Our goal is to open it up and make it available, with harmony between nature and human use,” Weede said of the plans for the park, which will be located north of North Ivy Road and south of Wieuca Road.
Shepherd attended three out of four steering meetings held this year, but after reviewing the plans, he believes there won’t be enough of a buffer between the water and the park area, causing damage to the urban habitat when much of the natural foliage is removed.
Weede said Shepherd’s claims are not true and the city ordinance simply requires no “ground disturbance activity” in the buffer zone. He said the plan is to remove plants considered invasive and put in vegetation that helps with filtration and erosion control.
Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead, said any and all development would need to meet all laws governing the creek buffer.
“One of the key things we are looking at on [Environmental Protection Agency’s] impaired list is that the creek needs attention to water quality improvement,” Starling said. “We are looking at opportunities to achieve that.”
Aside from the environmental concerns, Shepherd said he feels other nearby parks — Little Nancy Creek Park and Chastain Park — already provide many of the amenities proposed in Mountain Way Common.
Both Weede and Starling strongly disagreed, saying neither of those parks are within a five-minute walk.
Weede said the vision for Mountain Way Common is what is known as a linear park, which involves connecting thin strips of urban land through a trail system.
“This concept starts to link forgotten, neglected parcels,” Weede said. “It’s more than just this really beautiful cut with an interstate on top of it.”
Weede also opposed the neighborhood park concept — one without parking, a drinking fountain or restroom facilities — as it excludes people who don’t live close to a park.
“This park really ought to be for everybody,” Weede said. “We want to take it from a negative place with criminal elements, invasive species and dirty water and flip it into a good thing and a positive place.”
Starling said the vision for the park is still conceptual and will continue to be refined, but she felt the overall plan for Mountain Way Common is relatively natural in its approach.
“The creek is one of the biggest assets of the site,” she said. “What we will do is try to leverage that and make it a healthy creek.”
Shepherd said he knows the project has a lot of support by many city leaders, but he wants to make sure his neighbors know about its potential impact. He has started a website (www.foxyluvsplink.com) to address his concerns and told several neighbors about it, but has not begun a petition.
“I’m just hoping to keep pushing the rock and hopefully it moves an inch,” Shepherd said.
The total cost for the park will be about $1 million, Weede said. Organizers raised $20,000 in a November fundraiser and have begun the process of applying for grants. Weede said he’s hopeful development of the project will begin within the next year to 18 months.