Regarding the story “Murphey Candler Park residents outraged as Brookhaven moves forward with parking expansion” (Aug. 20):
One of the most rewarding aspects of public service is achieving positive change and improvements in fulfillment of the vision of the Brookhaven community. One of the most daunting challenges is reaching a unanimous consensus of what that vision should be.
In 2014, a little more than a year after Brookhaven incorporated, the city began a partnership with the community to define a vision for all its parks, a process driven by public input. The Parks Master Plans for Murphey Candler were first approved in 2016.
In 2018, the city’s attention turned to how to fund the improvements that the community said it wanted. First, the list of improvements for each park was itemized, and then the city hired an engineering design firm to estimate the cost of each project.
This information was also made widely available to the public. At the time, it was estimated that all improvements to all parks would be approximately $80 million. So, in a public meeting, the City Council decided to take about half of the master plan projects in all parks (~$40 million) and put the question directly to the voters in a referendum, the purest public input process in existence.
In 2018, the parks bond referendum was approved by voters by a wide margin — 60%, or 12,448 residents, voted yes.
I am proud to say that the city of Brookhaven went straight to work as soon as the decision of the community was made. In Murphey Candler Park alone, we have completed the long-awaited lake dredging; the shoreline restoration of the eroding lake shore; a trash trap to keep the lake clear of debris; an all-abilities, west-side playground; removal of invasive plant species; expanded football/softball parking improvements; the baseball drop-off lane;a beautified new entrance to the trails on the eastside; and improvements to Nancy Creek.
Among the projects still left to be completed are the Murphey Candler Park II Trail. This will provide a new outdoor hiking area and access to Harts Mill Road. On the lakefront, construction should begin later this year for the wetland boardwalk. Upcoming improvements on the eastern side of the park include a new natural playground and a community green. Additional and improved parking will also soon be underway by the pool and on a refurbished Loop Road.
Throughout the process, public input has been paramount, and remains so even now. It is disingenuous to assert that public input has ended for this or any other project. Public input remains the most important element in guiding budget and policy decisions across the board. I am more than happy to hear ideas and perspectives on how we can make our parks, and Brookhaven as a whole, better for generations to come.
Having said that, it is an unreasonable expectation that everyone will be satisfied with every improvement that will be made. This realization should not indicate that we will stop talking and listening to our neighbors with a differing point of view. It is my sincere hope that despite different opinions in the community, we can continue to treat each other with dignity and respect as we all strive to build a better Brookhaven for ourselves and for our children.
Brookhaven City Councilmember
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