DeKalb County to use American Rescue funds to improve 20 parks

Image obtained via Friends of Needham Park

DeKalb County, GA — DeKalb County is pouring nearly $16 million American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to address longstanding, overdue stormwater issues in county parks. The spending is a collaboration of DeKalb County Commissioners Ted Terry and Jeff Rader, and DeKalb County Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs department.

Twenty parks in unincorporated DeKalb County will undergo construction to repair stormwater infrastructure, like dam restoration, detention ponds improvements and stream banks reconstruction.

DeKalb County, which stands to receive $148 million from ARP, is putting money into parks because the spaces have become increasingly popular since the pandemic began. In September 2020, there was a 69 percent increase in the number of people visiting DeKalb County parks.

Terry called it an exciting moment for DeKalb.

“Improving systems will improve neighborhood issues downstream,” said Terry. “The reality is climate change is here. The call to action to address the impacts of climate change are even more present in our daily lives, especially if we live in neighborhoods where the infrastructure and the stormwater engineering is crumbling or was built decades ago, without the current day standards.”

The first projects, which will begin this year, are in Gresham Park in Atlanta, Hairston Park in Stone Mountain, Hidden Acres Nature Preserve in Stone Mountain and WD Thompson in Druid Hills.

The remaining 16 parks now need design plans drawn up.

– Belvedere Park, Decatur

– Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve, Stonecrest

– Deepdene Park, Druid Hills

– Exchange Park, Decatur

– Fork Creek Mountain Park, Decatur

– Frazer Rowe Park, Decatur

– Longdale Park, Decatur

– Little Creek Park Horse Farm and Park, Decatur

– Lou Walker Park, Decatur

– Margaret Harris Greenspace, Decatur

– Needham Park, Scottdale

– Redan Park, Lithonia

– Rutledge Park, Druid Hills

– Sugar Creek Golf and Tennis, Atlanta

– Wade Walker Park, Stone Mountain

– Zonolite Park, Druid Hills

Deepdene Park on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta is an imminent issue, said Eric Meyer, policy analyst in Rader’s office. Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has drafted a design to remove stormwater from Ponce de Leon Avenue and push it into Deepdene Park.

“That’s good for motorists’ safety, but you’re going to see higher and quicker volumes of water and go into Deepdene Park, so we need to figure out what to do with that to make sure it doesn’t have too much of a damaging impact on the park,” said Meyer.

District 1 parks are not getting this funding because cities like Dunwoody and Brookhaven received their own ARP allotment.

Terry said there is a three-year backlog in DeKalb roads and drainage, and the county needs to get up to speed with the current, environmentally friendly, effective stormwater strategies. The master plan will help to prioritize problems basin by basin but raising stormwater fees is part of the solution.

DeKalb stormwater fees currently cost approximately $44 per household, and are the lowest in the region.

“We have to raise our stormwater utility rates to meet the current demand. And this is just the results of decades and decades of not investing in the infrastructure, as well as not addressing climate change. So here we are having to mitigate the consequences of that inaction … but no time like the present. We can act, as we are, with this initial investment,” said Terry.

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