Not everyone in Dunwoody is excited about the opening of Phase I of Brook Run Park’s new multi-use trail on Saturday. Some oppose the loss of hundreds of 50-year-old trees, mainly hardwoods, in the park’s Urban Forest. Others mourn the loss of habitat for deer, coyotes, snakes, owls and hawks. Still others say the price is too high: $425,000 for a .7 mile long, 12-foot- wide concrete trail.
Homeowners who live in adjacent communities, who have received flood waters directly from the two streams that flow through Brook Run Park, argue that insufficient actions are being taken to prevent additional rainwater runoff expected from the trail. And many feel that a plan for walking trails that they endorsed some two years ago was changed in significant ways without citizen input. They never envisioned a highway cutting through their park.
The 2011 plan called for an 8-foot asphalt trail that would be built following the footprint of an existing trail. Phase I for the trail would cost $130,000, with $100,000 coming from a Department of Natural Resources grant. By March 2012, however, when contracts were awarded to build the trail, life in Dunwoody had changed. Project Renaissance, a public-private enterprise, brought new opportunities to link various areas of the city. Internal decisions were then made to alter the Brook Run plan.
Now, the trail would be widened by four feet, made of concrete and, for about 50% of the path, would not follow the old asphalt trails, but would cut through heavily forested areas. No open meetings were held on issues such as the overall purpose for the trail, its size, composition or location. Cutting a wide swath through this environmentally sensitive park for what is essentially a concrete road drew controversy.
Trails enhance the quality of life in a community. However, citizens want a voice in planning and allocating their public and environmental resources. Should a trail foster communion with nature? Should it provide transit from one part of town to another? Should it provide recreation, education? Can it both preserve the environment and avert sediment, erosion and flooding problems already present?
The details of such economic and environmental trade-offs need to be aired openly, weighed fairly and finally determined with wisdom and vision.
Beverly Armento, Research Professor Emerita at Georgia State University, is a Dunwoody homeowner whose community is adjacent to Brook Run Park.