Residents got an up-close look at a future park on Buckhead’s Loridans Drive at Ga. 400 before the latest public input meeting on July 12.

The 1.5-acre city-owned lot is the site of the former D.F. McClatchey Elementary School and also has a cemetery dating to around 1852. The property is at the northeast corner of the Loridans Drive bridge over Ga. 400 and just south of the Sandy Springs border. The nonprofit Park Pride is leading a planning process to come up with a design for turning it into a usable park that would run along a future extension of the PATH400 multiuse trail expected to be complete in 2022.

Residents walk on a service road that eventually will be the route of a PATH400 extension alongside the future Loridans Drive park to the right. To the right is a sound wall for Ga. 400.

Led by Park Pride landscape architect Andrew White, about 15 people hiked down an old service road along the highway’s sound wall and into woods that are significantly affected by such invasive species as English ivy. Scattered clothes, sleeping bags and other items along part of the road may have been the belongings of homeless people.

Little is left of the cemetery, which may include the graves of people who were enslaved, aside from a few small stones. Depressions believed to be graves are marked with flags for a future study that will be a first step in detailed park work.

Tadpoles flitted around inside a puddle. The property is said to have larger wildlife, including deer, but the tour group likely scared off most animals.

At the planning meeting, held nearby at St. James United Methodist Church at the corner of Loridans and Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, residents weighed in on conceptual drawings for paths, security and amenities by sticker-voting on pictures.

But there were no major changes from the “guiding principles” in place from an initial meeting in June. Those include preserving the tree canopy; highlighting the cemetery; barring on-site parking; creating a good park entrance; and maintaining privacy and security for neighboring homes.

The city owns the property, but does not fund the design or construction of such neighborhood parks. Instead, residents are expected to come up with a vision and form a nonprofit to hire someone to design and build it, often in stages. Park Pride specializes in leading the process.

In the next step, Park Pride will present some design concepts at a meeting scheduled for Sept. 11.

Photos by John Ruch

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