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.”