At a the District 3 Citizen Connection Meeting May 29, hosted at the Dunwoody North Driving Club, Dunwoody City councilmen Doug Thompson and John Heneghan answered questions about Dunwoody’s future plans.
As has been the case lately, many questions were about proposed parks and road improvements in the area.
The final park in the Project Renaissance redevelopment, Pernoshal Park, began its project phase May 29 after final consensus earlier this year in January. The park continues the multi-use trail from the newly-opened Georgetown Park and will connect eventually to the trail at Brook Run Park.
The new park will be geared toward older children and families.
“What is in the plan is a basketball court, full-size, and then a minor, smaller multi-use court,” Heneghan said. “The multi-use path is going from the new development, which has a playground at one end, and goes to Brook Run which has a playground at the other end, and it’s a matter of: do we really need that many playgrounds for small kids? Let’s make some amenities and open greenspace.”
The smaller use court may be outfitted for pickleball, a rapidly-growing racquet sport.
The park has been partially budgeted for this year, with the remainder proposed for fiscal year 2015.
“We have budgeted for 2014 right at $1 million for the Pernoshal Park and the multi-use trail,” Thompson said. “That will not be the full budget for the park, that will be in the 2015 budget. The thought process is we start this park towards the end of 2014 but finishing around 2015–but will be paid for by cash not by debt–out of the general fund.”
Treetop Quest likely a go
Heneghan, Thompson and other Dunwoody elected officials in attendance indicated that the proposed Treetop Quest amenity at Brook Run Park is likely to be approved by the council.
Councilmembers were approached by Treetop Quest Inc., a French company that constructs arboreal obstacle courses, to put one of the courses in an underused area of Brook Run Park. After opening the bidding process to other companies, Treetop Quest was the only applicant. Councilmembers visited the Treetop Quest facility at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center to try it for themselves.
“The city has not seen any formal contracting in front of us,” Heneghan said. “We have some basic outline of what it is and where it’s going and what is going to be the cost or the benefit to the city. It’s a for-profit company, but it’s going to provide a service to the community in general.”
Heneghan further said that the city is in negotiations with the company to set a ticket price.
“I wish that we could offer that amenity at a reasonable price so that everyday citizens could use it,” he said. “That’s public land; it should be used in a fashion that is available to most people.”
Residents at the meeting expressed concern about the use of park land and the potential increase in traffic in what is mainly a residential area. Dunwoody Mayor Mike Davis was in attendance, and according to Thompson “led the charge” when the council tried it out. He and others said that it wasn’t a theme-park type amenity that would draw huge crowds and many cars.
“There were 80-100 kids there, five acres, and you couldn’t hear a thing,” Davis said. “It was basically just kids concentrating on unharnessing one tether to hook on to another. The kids are concentrating so much on the next step … so there’s no squealing, no noise.”
Councilman Denny Shortall stressed the nature of the partnership that would be in place between the company and the city. Treetop Quest will build, staff and maintain the facility while providing a small amount of money to the city in return. There will be no tax money spent on the facility.
“The main thrust of the Treetop Quest obstacle course is not to get funds into the general fund,” Shortall said. “That’s not our thrust at all. That just happens to be a byproduct because they’re taking care of all the expenses, and we might get a little something out of it.”
Comparisons were drawn between this new facility and the skate park and dog park already at Brook Run Park. Much like the skate park, which was also staffed by an outside company, the canopy tours will operate outside of the government. It was compared unfavorably to the dog park, which was constructed as a draw for those outside Dunwoody and many residents view as a nuisance.
“This is an annual contract, so unlike the dog park where there is no contract and it was a facility we inherited from [former DeKalb County CEO] Vernon Jones and DeKalb County, this would be a renewal situation,” said Lynn Deutsch, a councilwoman. “At the end of the day, if it’s not going well for either party, the contract won’t be renewed.”
Tilly Mill Road intersection improvements
Also on May 29, Gov. Nathan Deal announced a grant to help improve the Tilly Mill Road intersection with North Peachtree Road. The city will receive $784,000 to improve traffic flow in what can become a congested intersection. Construction is expected to begin in 2015.
“The intersection will be open during its redesign and construction,” Thompson said. “It’s not going to be real attractive for a while; sometimes there may be some traffic slowdowns.”
The proposed plans include adding left turn lanes and signals, extending right turn lanes, adding a stoplight at the intersection of North Peachtree Road and Peeler Road and synchronizing that light with the existing one at Tilly Mill and North Peachtree. Also planned are on-street bicycle lanes, improved or added sidewalks and a grass buffer between the sidewalks and the bicycle lanes.
“We are in the phase right now of getting the right-of-way and the construction plans in place,” Heneghan said. “We hope to have construction going strong in 2015. I am very happy this is going forward. It’s been needed.”
This article originally appeared in The Champion Newspaper.