1. Flooding and Sewage Issues
In February 2016, Mayor Kasim Reed held a meeting with members of the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy (AMPC), Council Member Yolanda Adrean, neighborhood leaders, and other neighbors to devise an aggressive approach to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows from the Peachtree Creek trunk/relief sewer lines in Atlanta Memorial Park and to reduce flooding and stream bank erosion in Atlanta Memorial Park after the Park was contaminated with flooded waters containing sewage in December 2015. Meetings are ongoing and significant progress is being made.
On October 24, 2016, the Department of Watershed Management (DWM) held a collaborative discussion with the community regarding DWM’s ongoing efforts to address the sanitary sewer overflows, flooding, and other watershed related issues that have impacted Atlanta Memorial Park. They gave a presentation and followed with a Q&A session. The community talked directly with the DWM team to discuss the issues in the Park and learned more about the proposed, planned and potential improvements.
The DWM has a number of projects planned, some short-term, and others long-term. Some of the projects that will positively impact Atlanta Memorial Park include:
- improving the handling capacity and throughput of water treatment plants
- clearing and cleaning old sewage lines to improve throughput, and reduce leakage
- adding storage capacity to handle flood waters
- providing means to divert water to address flooding, and
- eliminating the two “aerial crossings” over Peachtree Creek inside Memorial Park’s borders (a source of spills).
The City has projects scheduled through 2030 totaling $32M, which will improve the system’s ability to handle sewage and mitigate flooding.
A good starting point is the material presented at the October 2016 Open House.
At the October 2016 Open House, DWM presented this “Path Forward” statement:
The City Department of Watershed Management is committed to achieving the goal to eliminate wet weather-related sewer overflows within Memorial Park and the Peachtree Creek Basin. The City has developed a comprehensive list of completed, planned, and potential projects, as well as their expected beneficial impacts to continue efforts towards achieving this goal.
A follow-up Open House is scheduled for May 10, 2017 from 5:30 – 7:00 pm at the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center.
2. Northside Drive Bridge Project
The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), which controls the bridge (because it is a state highway), gathered input at an Open House on March 1, 2016. Based on their assessment, which included public feedback, the latest plans call for GDOT to close the bridge to traffic while it is being replaced. GDOT explained that this approach has the advantages of least cost and shortest project time. More information is available in GDOT’s “Responses to Open house Comments” dated September 9, 2016; this is GDOT’s response to public input gathered at the Public Information Open House held on March 1, 2016.
According to GDOT:
- Northside Drive will have 3 lanes, one lane heading north, one lane heading south and a dedicated middle turn lane.
- There will be some temporary road closings as required for construction; details will be provided at GDOT’s next Open House (date TBD). To see information that has been shared to date, click here.
- The new Northside Drive bridge will have improved pedestrian and bike access; on the west side, the bridge will accommodate a 5-foot sidewalk and on the east side, there will be a detached 10-foot multi-use path bridge crossing Peachtree Creek.
According to GODT, the moving of utilities will begin in August 2018 and is estimated to be completed by August 2019. The closing of the bridge is estimated to take place on or about August 2019, and will be closed for a maximum of 240 days; this indicates the new bridge would open in roughly April 2020. Final cleanup and other construction is expected last for a few more months after the bridge re-opens.
3. The Playground
The new location is on higher ground and is further away from Peachtree Creek and problematic sewer manhole covers.
The old equipment had nearly reached “end-of-life” according to the city’s standards. The new equipment meets a number of new safety standards, is ADA accessible, and provides children with new play options. The new design puts an emphasis on providing equipment that allows children to play individually and in groups, and across wide age ranges.
Yes, it will. But it will flood less frequently, as it is approximately 18” higher than the old location.
The surface on the new playground is permeable; you can literally pour a bucket of water on it and see it disappear. The rubberized material also provides a cushioned surface and is not made from recycled tires. The City of Atlanta now uses this material in many parks as it is a better choice than recycled tires for play areas.
The base material under the rubberized surface is commonly known as “crusher run”, which is a gravel mix that forms a solid base. This same surface was used under the old playground.
The total cost of the playground was about $400,000. This funding provided for:
- design and consulting
- removal of old playground equipment
- relocation of an existing tree
- purchase and installation of:
– new playground equipment
– rubber safety surface (not recycled tires)
– benches and picnic tables
– trash receptacles (to be installed Spring 2017)
– freeze-resistant water fountain, hydrant, and pet water bowl (Spring/Summer 2017)
– bike racks
The city provided $200,000; Park Pride contributed $87,500; individual donors contributed the balance of the funds.
Mayor Reed visited the park in March 2016 and announced his support for a new playground. A playground steering committee was formed, and an Open House was conducted on May 5, 2017 to gather neighborhood input. A new playground design was created, which balanced the use of the park space, the desire to keep the open field intact, and still keep to a budget. The city offered a budget of $200,000, which was not enough to allow for the playground to be built in a single phase. Instead of stretching the project out over months or years for fundraising, neighbors stepped forward and offered to fill the funding gap, including one donor who put forth $100,000. Park Pride joined in, and with their matching funds the project moved forward. The Conservancy is particularly proud that the project was completed on-budget and in record time.
4. AMPC, the Bobby Jones Golf Course, and the existing Clubhouse
The AMPC is not involved with the golf course. As was widely explained in the media, the state now owns the golf course, and will be responsible for renovations and its operation. The state has selected the Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation to raise money, oversee the renovation, and manage the operation of the course. This Foundation has entered into an arrangement with Mosaic Golf to operate the course until renovations begin. You can learn more about the renovation plans at www.bjgcfoundation.org.
The state owns the existing clubhouse and the land immediately surrounding the clubhouse. Currently, the clubhouse is leased to the Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation; as with the course itself, Mosaic Golf is operating the clubhouse while the course is still in operation. When the Foundation is no longer using the clubhouse, it is expected that the City will enter into a lease with the state, with the expectation that the City will continue to allow the clubhouse to be used for community use.
5. The multi-use trail (PATH) alongside the Bobby Jones Golf Course
Yes. This section 5 describes what is going in on the east side of Northside Drive (the Bobby Jones Golf Course side); see section 7 for information on the west side of Northside Drive (the “passive side” of the park).
The PATH Foundation is spearheading the design of a 10-foot wide multi-use trail as envisioned in the AMPC draft master plan completed in 2014. The portion that runs from the driveway entrance of Bitsy Grant, alongside Northside Drive to Peachtree Creek, is being constructed by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and is scheduled to be completed summer 2017. The pedestrian bridge on Northside Drive, over Peachtree Creek, will be completed as part of GDOT’s bridge project. Ongoing plans call for the trail to continue eastward (along Woodward Way) on the north side of Peachtree Creek, crossing back over Peachtree Creek and connecting to the existing Beltline. The AMPC, the PATH Foundation, the Peachtree Battle Alliance, Councilmember Adrean’s office, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the state are all working together to make this happen. A presentation by the PATH Foundation will be made at the May 2, 2017 NPU-C meeting for the community to view the plans for the PATH around the golf course.
6. The Memorial Park Walkways Project – Overview
The Memorial Park Walkways project, originally conceived in the draft master plan for the park, was initiated in 2013 to review, assess and provide a vision for Atlanta Memorial Park with the community including the “passive” side of Atlanta Memorial Park (west of Northside Drive).
- Enhance walkability and connectivity
- Assess, preserve, and restore the tree canopy
- Restore native plant communities along Peachtree Creek and the trail system
- Improve user experience and provide connection to park amenities
- Address erosion, drainage, and flooding issues along the trail system
In addition to the public workshops held in 2013, professional input was provided by the City of Atlanta Parks and Recreation Department, Trees Atlanta, Brookwood Tree Consulting, HGOR (a landscape architecture firm), Long Engineering, and the City of Atlanta Watershed Department.
The first step was to fund and commission a feasibility study. This study was funded by a $50,000 legacy grant awarded to AMPC by Park Pride, plus $50,000 in matching funds from individual donors. This study proposed a number of projects, some of which are currently underway (invasive species removal and installation of sidewalks; keep reading for more on these two projects).
The complete Feasibility Study is 176 pages and is located here. For your convenience, the “Findings and Recommendations” section (pages 32 and 33) are available here. The study was completed in 2015 and was presented to the community at an Open House on November 2015. It was publicly presented to the city Design Review Committee on December 15, 2015.
7. The Memorial Park Walkways Project – Sidewalks and Nature Trails
The sidewalks will be 5-feet wide around the perimeter of Memorial Park, west of Northside Drive. The sidewalks being added on Wesley Drive and Woodward Way (from the Peachtree Battle Avenue to the Northside Drive intersections) will tie into the existing 5-foot sidewalks on Howell Mill Road, Peachtree Battle Avenue and the future 5 foot sidewalks on Northside Drive.
During the 2013 AMPC public workshops, attendees expressed a desire to keep the sidewalks on the passive side of the park at 5 feet. This desire was confirmed by the Memorial Park Civic Association (MPCA) in the resolutions that were submitted to the AMPC in April 2014. A copy of the MPCA resolutions can be found here.
The Feasibility Study completed by landscape architect firm, HGOR, recommended that concrete be used for the ADA accessible sidewalk.
Yes, pervious concrete will be priced as an alternate.
Yes, there will be a landscape buffer between the curb and the sidewalk, where feasible.
Extensive research was conducted during the Feasibility Study phase to save as many trees as possible. Only six non-specimen trees, all of which are in poor condition, have been recommended for removal out of the 871 trees surveyed for the project. The trees that are identified to be removed will be replaced with new 3” caliper hardwood trees for the purpose of preserving the existing tree canopy in the park.
The project will replace existing eroded rubble stone curbs where sidewalk improvements are proposed along the perimeter of the park with a City of Atlanta standard granite curb. A continuous curb system like the one proposed will help mitigate stormwater to catch basins and prevent further washout and erosion in low spots. Rubble stone curb material will be salvaged and re-used within the park as a veneer to proposed footbridges or other identified park features.
In September 2016, the Atlanta City Council approved legislation introduced by Council Member Yolanda Adrean allocating $2.8 million for the sidewalks which includes important storm drainage repairs. The funding furthers Council Member Adrean’s goal to have sidewalks within a 10-15 minute walk along all corridors leading to schools and parks in District 8.
The existing interior trail will be improved with a 5-foot wide porous material section constructed of aggregate and slate scape stabilizer. This material is considered an approved trail surface for floodplain and universal accessibility applications and is used throughout the region in similar environmental conditions along creeks, low lying areas and wooded forests.
The interior nature trails will be funded through a capital campaign initiated by the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy. Funding sources have not been identified to date.
8. The Memorial Park Walkways Project – Invasive Species
“In a new environment, invasive species are free from natural predators, parasites, or competitors found in their native habitats, and they often develop very high populations. These large populations can out-compete and displace native species, or can reduce wildlife, food, and habitat. Some invasive species can reduce forest productivity by reducing tree growth rates, restricting tree seedling establishment, elevating fire hazard, and increasing site preparation costs.”*
*source: Trees Atlanta – https://treesatlanta.org/our-programs/forest-restoration/
AMPC is working with Trees Atlanta to remove the invasive species in the Park. In 2014, Trees Atlanta completed a Study to assess the use of prescribed grazing and hand-pulling in non-erodible areas, which can reduce the amount of herbicide application required by as much as 90%. To help prevent the invasive species from returning, Trees Atlanta, after receiving authorization from the City of Atlanta, does use herbicides sparingly. See below for an explanation from Trees Atlanta Forest Restoration Manager and ISA Certified Arborist, Brian Williams.
The recommended herbicide used by Trees Atlanta is Rodeo, a water-safe form of glyphosate that lacks the surfactants that cause harm to invertebrates and amphibians, or a forestry specialty herbicide called Element 3A, which is a salt form of triclopyr. Foliar application to ivy would only be scheduled during dormancy periods for desirable species. Both Rodeo and Element 3A are safe to use near surface water, have little to no soil mobility (meaning that in a clay soil they are bound to soil particles and rendered inactive for uptake by nontarget plants), and have low toxicity to humans and animals. In terms of carcinogenicity in lab studies, triclopyr is considered of no concern, and glyphosate is currently at Level 2B; this level means it is safer to come into contact with glyphosate than with smog (Level 1), diesel exhaust (Level 1), ethanol in beverages (Level 1), consumption of processed meat (Level 1), ultraviolet radiation (Level 1), or sawdust (Level 1) (per the American Cancer Society).
If the majority of the invasive species are removed, will the Park be bare and possibly flood even worse?
AMPC, in conjunction with Trees Atlanta and the City of Atlanta, will be replanting the areas where invasive species have been removed with plants that are native to our environment. The goal is to restore Memorial Park’s forest to bring it back to its optimal health.
9. The Memorial Park Walkways Project – Tree Survey
The tags are a unique identifier for each tree that corresponds with both the information AMPC collected as well as a specific location captured in the survey. AMPC, DPR and other city departments now have the resources to not only see a tree in the field, but can now look up the species and size, if desired. The tags and nails are aluminum so they will not corrode, and only cause the damage equivalent to a paper cut.
The City required all trees within 35’ of a proposed trail be sized and located at a minimum. By knowing the “what and where” of the trees, trail improvements have been planned in a way that minimizes the impact to the trees and of the trees impacted, mitigating those impacts ideally through root bridging. The 6 trees that do require removal for the installation of the sidewalks are discussed further below.
You can use the AMPC’s “TreeTracker” app, located here:
The passive portion of Memorial Park was surveyed by Long Engineering, a professional engineering firm, in concert with arborist Chris Hughes of Brookwood Tree Consulting, who is certified through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and is a Registered Consulting Arborist. The arborist placed specific tags on park trees based on tree size and tree location within the park as captured by the survey.
The City of Atlanta requires that all trees at least 2.5″ in diameter that are within 35 feet of an existing or a proposed walkway or nature trail be surveyed and tagged. Now that these trees have been identified, trail layout and improvements have been planned in order to minimize any impact to the trees in the park.
The tree data that was collected by the arborist provides valuable information about the canopy of trees in the park. Tree size, location and health have been recorded. AMPC seeks to maintain and enhance the rich and diverse heritage of trees in the park. The tree study provides tangible information that can guide decisions for proper tree care so that this treasured tree canopy can be better maintained for park goers to enjoy for generations to come.
Only 6 trees, all in poor condition, will be cut down to accommodate the future 5-foot sidewalks on Wesley Drive and Woodward Way. If any other trees are removed in the park, it is only those that might be hazardous, dead, dying or diseased as identified by the City of Atlanta’s arborist. Further, the City of Atlanta must permit any removal of these trees. Chris Hughes of Brookwood Tree Consulting has assessed the health condition of all of the tagged trees as noted in the response to “Tell me more about the surveying and protection of the trees?” below.
Within public property in Atlanta (parks, right of way, etc.), all trees over 2.5” in trunk diameter are protected. If a tree is determined to be unhealthy or structurally unsound and the City agrees, the City will issue a DDH (Dying, Diseased, or Hazardous) permit and allow for the removal without the need to plant new trees.
In Atlanta’s tree ordinance, a specimen tree is simply an exceptionally large tree. These are over 30” trunk diameter for canopy trees (oaks, pines, hickories) and over 10” trunk diameter for understory trees (dogwoods, cherries, etc.). The City prefers all efforts be made to conserve these trees.
The assessment performed in Memorial Park was technically a Canopy Dynamics Study. It allows for AMPC and DPR to continue the rich heritage of trees in the park and provides additional information that can guide decisions for tree care. Because of the study, AMPC and DPR now have hard data on at least a portion of the trees in Memorial Park. With this, AMPC and DPR can determine the following:
- Species distribution to help make decisions about which trees are represented and what might be the most appropriate species to plant.
- 55 different species are represented, but 25% are pines (221).
- Size (age) distribution that may help shed light on how the population is likely to trend over the next 10-15 years.
- 63 canopy trees are over 30” diameter (large specimens).
- Tree health distribution
− 28.5% Excellent (248)
− 34.3% Good (298)
− 25.1% Fair (218)
− 11.5% Poor (100)
− .6% Dead (5)
According to AMPC’s arborist, the above is a good distribution. However, the number of Fair trees is slightly higher than normal. Some of those Fair trees could be returned to Good or Excellent condition. Others are growing very closely with another tree and this “shared base” is not a good long term spacing.
The tags are a unique identifier for each tree that corresponds with both the information AMPC collected as well as a specific location captured in the survey. AMPC and DPR now have the resources to not only see a tree in the field, but could then look up the species and size, if desired. The tags and nails are aluminum so they will not corrode, and only cause the damage equivalent to a paper cut.
Finally, the City required at least all trees that might be impacted by any trail improvements be surveyed (sized and located at a minimum). Again, by knowing the “what and where” of the trees, trail improvements have been planned in a way that minimizes the impact to the trees through the use of root bridging which was successfully implemented during the construction of other sidewalks and trails in the City.
10. About AMPC
The Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to restore, enhance and preserve Atlanta Memorial Park, making it a beautiful, connected and sustainable urban green space for the enjoyment of all. AMPC’s ongoing efforts and committed focus are on three key areas within Atlanta Memorial Park:
- green space
In 2011, Atlanta Memorial Park was one of the few regional parks within the City of Atlanta that did not have a master plan. As the neglect of the park became increasingly apparent, the City encouraged the community leaders that expressed concern over the deteriorating condition of the Park to work together and form a conservancy. Roxanne Giles Smith, the president of the Peachtree Battle Alliance at that time, was instrumental in gathering support from the surrounding neighborhoods and founding the AMPC. One of the first tasks of the AMPC was to work with the various civic associations to develop a Master Plan, which has guided the efforts of the AMPC and the City to ensure the park receives the care and attention it was lacking.
The Board of Directors consists of one permanent liaison from the six neighborhood associations contiguous to the Park as well as at-large members. In April of 2014, the Board of Directors hired an Executive Director, Catherine Spillman, who continues to serve in this capacity.
Who has the ultimate authority to make decisions regarding Memorial Park and what will their decision be based on?
The City of Atlanta’s Department of Parks and Recreation is the ultimate decision maker on issues regarding the Park.
Who are the stakeholders that comprise the Conservancy, and how can residents participate in the conversation?
Since Atlanta Memorial Park is a city park, all citizens of Atlanta are stakeholders. The stakeholders serving on the board of the AMPC are the six neighborhoods adjacent to the park property as well as the Castlewood neighborhood. The six neighborhood are currently Memorial Park, Springlake, Collier Hills, Collier Hills North, Peachtree Battle Alliance, and Brandon. If your neighborhood would like representation on the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy board of directors, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Residents may communicate directly with their neighborhood board liaison and/or any neighbors that serve on specific committees.
11. How to get involved
Volunteering for an upcoming clean up day and supporting AMPC financially are two great ways to start. To volunteer, contact AMPC by clicking on “contact” at the bottom of the home page. To donate, click on the “Donate & Join” tab in the top right corner of the home page. Financial support is welcome at any level!
Yes; the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy, Inc. is a Georgia non-profit entity that has been granted 501(c)(3) status. The Conservancy is also eligible for matching corporate funds and accepts stock donations.