Brook Run Dog Park in Dunwoody is under fire again from park neighbors and city councilmembers who want it moved.
Citing environmental damage and noise concerns, those opposed to the current dog park location wish to have it moved to another part of the park. Supporters expressed their love of the community and the dog park’s draw to members of other municipalities.
Established in what was originally unincorporated DeKalb, the dog park is four acres of fenced, heavily wooded land in the western part of the park, off of Georgia Way. Dog park supporters tout the shade cast by the mature trees as a unique benefit of the park, while opponents cite arborists’ surveys that demonstrate tree damage from overuse.
Supporters and opponents in approximately equal numbers packed the chamber for the public comment portion of the June 9 Dunwoody City Council meeting.
“I have lived on Lake Village Drive since 1989,” said resident Beverly Armento. “I urge you to accept your park manager’s recommendation to move the dog park to an alternative location in Brook Run Park. If we … keep the dog park where it is, all the remaining trees will be dead in seven to 10 years.”
The seven to 10 years statistic comes from a report commissioned by the council to study the effects of the dog park on the standing trees. Further studies by arborists commissioned by the Brook Run Dog Park Association (BRDPA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, found there was no damage to trees.
Supporters, including many from the BRDPA wore red to make a “visual impact,” according to the association’s Facebook page.
Resident Saul Sloman said he approached the chamber “dressed as a tomato” in support of maintaining the park where it is.
“I have lived here for 14 years, and my parents have lived here since 1982,” he said. “The proposed new location is in full sun. The current location requires little maintenance while the new location would require regular re-sodding. We would be trading one problem for another.”
The proposed new dog park location would be moved closer to Peeler Road, away from residents in Lakeview Oaks but toward houses on Peeler Road.
Moving the park has been discussed since at least 2013, when it was included in the city budget to the tune of around $195,000. In December of 2013, BRDPA members presented a compromise plan that ceded moving the fence away from the Lakeview Oaks neighborhood and provisions for environmentally-friendly maintenance. The dog park is currently maintained by volunteers from the BRDPA.
“I am talking tonight on behalf of a compromise,” said Kerry Coghill, a resident of 29 years. “I would like to suggest you return to the proposal that was put forward at the December meeting. We can explore moving the fence, putting up sound barriers such as cedar trees.”
Coghill said that during the week there is little noise in the area, and that the proposed new location would need additional maintenance due to grass cover being killed by dog urine.
Parks and Recreation Manager Brent Walker presented his department’s feasibility study of moving the dog park and concluded that moving the park was the staff’s recommendation.
“Our biggest concern is with maintaining the understory vegetation,” Walker said. “We may be able to rotate the dogs out of that area and give it a time of rest. There will be costs associated with maintaining either a new location or the current one. And, we are happy to work with the dog park association.”
Councilmembers appeared to be split on the issue. Councilmen Doug Thompson and John Heneghan wore red ties in apparent support of the dog park. Heneghan spoke of the unique nature of the dog park’s shade and its active volunteer base.
“I disagree with the plan for moving it because it will kill that community,” he said. “I am in favor of building communities, not killing them.”
“I agree with John,” Thompson said.
Councilwoman Lynn Deutsch said she is not necessarily for or against moving the park, but acknowledged that there are serious problems with the park’s location because of the haphazard way it was first put down.
“There are best practices for building dog parks and this park meets virtually none of those best practices,” she said. “[The park] was not done with any planning. There was no community input, there was no effort to mitigate impacts on the neighbors.”
Councilman Terry Nall said he is in favor of keeping the dog park in the same general area, but shifting the fence significantly away from the neighborhood and perhaps re-purposing part of the parking lot serving that portion of the park.
“Keeping the dog park as it is today is not an option,” he said, “nor is it transferring it to another set of neighbors. We can make better use of the grassy area near the parking lot, or repurpose a section of the parking lot. … But this is not a request. We need to be far more aggressive than what has been provided [in compromise plans.]”
Councilmen Denny Shortall and Jim Riticher said they are more aligned with Nall or Deutsch’s plans to relocate the park with some compromise with the dog park association.
Mayor Mike Davis told parks and recreation manager Walker to continue exploring options to move the dog park, including alternate places in the park or Nall’s suggestion of shifting the boundaries of the dog park in its same general area.
“The dog park needs to be relocated,” Davis said. “The assessments conclude that should the dog park continue to be used, in seven to 10 years all the trees will be dead. If we kick this can down the road again we’re going to be looking at three acres of dead trees.”
“If we can’t get a better solution, we may have to shut down the dog park until we do have a solution,” he concluded.
Edit: BRDPA posted on Facebook that members met with Parks and Recreation Manager Brent Walker on June 19. The footprint of the park will change to allow for more of a noise barrier, but the total area will not change, according to the post. Environmental damage will be mitigated with terracing and some areas will be fenced off completely to recover. Additional redesigns are forthcoming with the city, the post stated.
This article originally appeared in The Champion Newspaper.