The 4-acre park is planned for the floodplain at Windsor Parkway and Northland Drive.
The 4-acre park is planned for the floodplain at Windsor Parkway and Northland Drive.

Should a new city park include parking spaces?

That’s the question surrounding Windsor Meadows, a small neighborhood park planned for the floodplain at Windsor Parkway and Northland Drive. The addition of three parking spaces to the design is drawing concerns from some neighbors who worry it may attract shady strangers instead of local walkers.

“Our plan involved a walking park with trails,” said Christopher Laird, one of three residents who spoke against the parking spaces at a recent Sandy Springs City Council meeting. “We did not want this to be a destination park.”

Officials say the parking is needed for maintenance and for people with mobility problems. And there is plenty of time to change the design, which the city recently submitted to the state for approval.

“We have some time to work these issues through,” said Linda Bain, executive director of the Sandy Springs Conservancy, which designed the park. She said she thinks the neighbors have valid worries, but “all things considered, that’s a fair number of [parking] spaces.”

Everyone seems to agree that the park would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood. The 4-acre green space with trees, paths and benches would go on the site where three houses were ruined by a historic 2009 flood of Nancy Creek. The neighborhood park ties into city plans for sidewalks and a new pedestrian bridge on Windsor Parkway.

For now, however, the city must wait for Georgia Emergency Management Agency approval, which can take a year.

The site was among several properties the city bought three years ago through the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The program helped the city buy flooded properties with the provision that they be kept as open space to manage future flooding.

Last year, the Conservancy and the High Point Civic Association presented a community proposal to turn the Windsor Parkway parcels into a formal park. City Council agreed to provide $300,000 for the park.

The plan needs approval from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and its federal counterpart mostly to ensure that the park would not have permanent structures or hard surfaces that would block floodwaters. Last month, the city submitted the plan with only one city-added change: three parking spaces off Windsor Parkway.

“[The parking spaces] will allow work crews parking access as they maintain the site, in addition to residents who may wish to park there,” city spokeswoman Sharon Kraun said in an email. “Street parking is not an option on Windsor Parkway.”

The residents who complained at the Aug. 4 council meeting said those spaces were a surprise. They expressed concerns that parking could attract outsiders and create safety and security issues.

A 2014 civic association presentation about the park plan shows that parking was discussed. Some residents complained about people riding ATVs and illegally parking on the site. That led the city to post no-trespassing signs and install curbs across the former driveways of the flood-ruined homes.

On the other hand, 30 out of 100 residents surveyed said they wanted to “explore” adding parking to the design.

“If you’re going to have a park, you’re going to need a maintenance vehicle,” said Councilman Tibby DeJulio.
DeJulio, who met with residents last month about the parking concerns, said he thinks “the chances are slim [the park would attract outsiders] because it’s not that big.”

Bain said the design contains every possible amenity—not necessarily everything that will be built—because any future change would require another lengthy approval process.

“You don’t have to build everything that’s in the plan,” Bain said.“I think the value of this is tremendous. We have really very little public space in Sandy Springs.”

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.