By John Schaffner

It is always nice to see the community get involved to see that a plan comes together. The problem often is that it is only a dedicated few who pull the weight to benefit a community of many.

The case of the dozen and a half maturing oak trees that were illegally cut down one Sunday morning in June of last year in front of the Village Park Place at Brookhaven commercial building at 1441 Dresden Drive is a perfect example of how the concern—even outrage—and persistence of a small group of residents made a huge contribution to the community.

It took almost a year, but oak trees—not 17 but 8—have been replanted in front of that building, along with other shrubs. Actually, the new plantings work better with the façade of the building and the streetscape in general along Dresden Drive.

But that is not all of the story.

Because less trees, and trees of smaller caliper were replaced in front of the commercial building there were trees and shrubs that needed to be planted elsewhere in the community in order to meet the requirements of the county tree ordinance.

A huge beneficiary was Ashford Park, at the corner of Redding and Caldwell roads, which received eight Nuttall Oak trees, eight Cryptomeria bushes and four purple vitex plants.

Another beneficiary was Clax Corner, a small neighborhood park off Dresden Drive two blocks behind Haven restaurant. That park got two Nuttall Oak trees and three crepe myrtle bushes.

“Everybody ended up winning in the long run from the illegal cutting down of those trees last year,” said Ashford Park resident Ronnie Mayer, who along with Dist. 2 DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader and Jim Eyre of J&E Real Estate kept up the pressure for nine months to get the trees replanted.

But let’s also give credit to Rajen Seth, managing director of Pinnacle Real Estate, which owns and manages the commercial building. He ended up paying for all of the replanting and new plantings.

Seth was the one who had the trees cut down last June so that his building could be better seen from the street. He believed the trees were blocking the view of the building and thus hurting his potential to lease space in the building.

But, at a meeting last fall at Ashford Park recreation center, which was organized by Rader and his fellow DeKalb County Commissioner Kathie Gannon, Seth stood before an angry group of some 20 neighborhood residents, admitted what he had done was wrong and agreed to pay to make it right for the community.

Of course, he may have been coerced a little by being threatened with criminal action and jail time for cutting down trees on county property—the right-of-way between the street and his building.

Nevertheless, at the end of March, Seth made good on his promise to replace the full value of the trees he had cut down.

Even in the end, it took the contacts, commitment and persistence of those few local residents and public officials to make it happen.

As I see it, the community benefitted from this misfortune three-fold. The streetscape in front of 1441 Dresden Drive is probably better than it was initially. Ashford Park got trees and bushes the county would never have been able to purchase in the near term. And, a small neighborhood Park at Clax Corner got a little facelift free of charge.

That is my idea of a plan really coming together. And thanks are deserved by those who made it happen .

Neighbors make a park happen

In our last edition of the Brookhaven Reporter, we had a story about a cooperative effort between residents who live on opposite sides of Peachtree-Dunwoody Road toiling for months—maybe years—to create a new park for the entire community to enjoy.

Little Nancy Creek Park has been a labor of love shared by the Historic Brookhaven Civic Association and the North Buckhead Civic Association.

The project started out as a passive park, but has morphed into something very different. Aside from play areas, it now also includes a community garden, with 20 raised beds being tended by gardeners from surrounding neighborhoods.

This park has been an ongoing labor of love for these two neighborhood associations and their members. But there are no “Private Property” signs at this park. It is there for all to enjoy. Just don’t steal the vegetables from the community garden. Sharing has its limits.

Pitch in and help Brookhaven

I received a notice recently that I think opens up opportunities for those interested in supporting the community of Brookhaven. The Brookhaven Arts Alliance is beginning planning meetings for the Brookhaven Arts Festival and Taste of Brookhaven events.

The Alliance needs volunteers to help make these events a success—volunteers of time and volunteers for sponsorships.