Proposed walking trails at Atlanta Memorial Park divide residents

The Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy’s proposed renovation of Bobby Jones Golf Course, to the right in this illustration, would reduce it to nine holes from 18 holes. A conservancy consultant proposes adding concrete trails around the perimeter of the the “passive” portion of the park, which is shown in the upper left portion of this illustration.
The Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy’s proposed renovation of Bobby Jones Golf Course, to the right in this illustration, would reduce it to nine holes from 18 holes. A conservancy consultant proposes adding concrete trails around the perimeter of the the “passive” portion of the park, which is shown in the upper left portion of this illustration.

By Joe Earle

A proposal to add walking trails in a portion of Atlanta Memorial Park drew widely varying reactions Nov. 5 when presented to the city park’s neighbors.

Consultant Jill Sluder, a landscape architect with HGOR, outlined a plan that would add two miles of 5-foot-wide concrete trails around the perimeter of the Buckhead park and another mile of trails within the park that would be made from materials that would allow water to pass through them.

In addition to the trails, she said, consultants working for the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy proposed removing invasive plants from the park and cutting down five trees she said were hazardous. She said the five trees to be removed were among 800 “specimen” trees in the park and that the trees that were removed would be replaced.

The work, if approved by the city, would cost the conservancy about $1 million, she said. The conservancy also has proposed extensive renovations to the nearby Bobby Jones Golf Course and Bitsy Grant Tennis Center.

“You have a lot of people using the park,” Sluder told about 60 people who gathered at Northside United Methodist Church for her presentation. “The odd thing is they’re not in the park. They’re in the streets. Let’s get these folks off the streets.”

But her proposal met sharp criticism from some neighbors who argued the work was an unnecessary expense and could increase flooding and traffic in the area.

“I hate to say it, but I have had it,” John Whitney said. “I have had it with the conservancy. I have worked for 45 years to protect this park as a haven for wildlife and now you are going to ruin it.”

Whitney said he opposed everything in the consultants’ plan. “It’s a railroad locomotive going down the track and it’s unstoppable,” he said.

But other residents welcomed the proposals to open up the park to more users.

“I think it’s a great plan,” resident Bob Caton said. “Anything to get the city of Atlanta to have more accessible parks is what we need to improve livability of the city, which is pretty much a concrete jungle now.”

And Andrew Lunde said he had “mixed feelings” after listening to Sluder’s presentation. “I think having a sidewalk around the circumference would be an improvement,” he said, “but the interior path, I’m not so sure it’s going to make it substantially better than what we’ve got now.”

1 Comment
  1. Why does it always seem that PLANS approved in the back rooms by corporate entities and the COA are always presented as “Proposals” that are open to negotiations?The creation of a 5′ wide concrete trail serves more to destroy the viability of Bobby Jones Golf Course’s 19-hole layout than to provide commodious walking trails but, truthfully, isn’t that the real intention?. Five feet is little more than the width of a standard interior door–not a promenade! I am truly surprised that the “Proposal” didn’t start out as a 10 or 12 foot-wide walkway that could be argued down to five feet. That’s the way it usually happens when there are controversial projects. When a 6-story complex is presented for approval in an already developed neighborhood, the developer is well aware they such a proposal will never pass muster. The public cries in protest. The complex is whittled down to a 4-story project which is approved by the letting of permit to build in spite of the fact that even a new 4-story project reduces parking for neighborhood residents and their guests, creates greater traffic congestion and overloads the infrastructure of the neighborhood. Of course, the developer acquires approval for the controversial project that they knew would be approved as a 4-story project all along. The tune is monotonous but typical. Such a sham.

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