In 2010, the city received a $2.75 million grant through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, an initiative of the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and the Georgia Emergency Management Association (GEMA) in which the city could acquire up to 11 properties via federal funds.
One of the properties the city acquired with funds from the grant is a nearly 0.7-acre floodplain lot in the River Shore Estates neighborhood, and it could be converted to a park by 2020 at an estimated cost of $100,000. For only $189,980, Sandy Springs converted three floodplain lots on Windsor Parkway into Windsor Meadows Park, which opened in September.
The city owns seven other floodplain lots through the grant program, including three on Pine Forest Road, which could be converted to parks. The properties could be used as neighborhood parks or playgrounds, community gardens, dog parks or other recreational activities.
Once the properties within the floodplain are sold and any homes on those lots are demolished, a public facility utilized for recreational use or as a public restroom could be built. The new park would be built at the corner of River Shore Parkway and Riverhill Drive.
“It’s important,” Michael Perry, Sandy Springs’ recreation and parks director, said of adding greenspace, especially without having to pay for property with city funds. “(The River Shore Estates land) is not even an acre, but even buying an acre in our area is very expensive. When we have available land, it saves us a considerable amount of money compared to buying a tract and building something.”
Perry presented his department’s plans for the River Shore Estates property, which would be called River Shore Meadows Park, if it were approved, at the Sandy Springs City Council’s work session Nov. 20. Like the other similar properties the city owns, this one is mowed regularly by the city and remains a place where the neighborhood holds yoga classes and social events.
The River Shore Estates Homeowners Association contacted the city about possibly converting the land into a park, and Sandy Springs communicated with residents through the association’s email newsletters and website, where Sandy Springs posted a survey about the park idea. Of the residents surveyed, 155 voted yes, 12 voted no and 104 did not respond, according to Chris Barnes, the association’s board spokesman.
District 3 Councilman Chris Burnett said at the work session he’s lived in the neighborhood for 25 years and approves of the park conversion plan, adding it’s needed there.
“When we do HOA meetings, we have to do it in someone’s back yard. So I’m very supportive of this,” he said.
Perry said the bulk of the new park’s cost, $80,000, would be for construction. At the work session, City Manager John McDonough said the city could put the park plan on its prioritized project list for the fiscal 2020 budget, which would be approved no later than July 1. Once the park is approved by the city to be included in its budget, it would still take about another year for the conversion to be completed, Perry said, since the city would have to conduct a topographical survey before FEMA or GEMA permitting was finished to allow construction to begin.
“The survey would determine if or how much FEMA or GEMA permitting is required,” he said. “Based on my experience with Windsor Meadows Park, it’s at least a year and a half (total).”
Barnes said the neighborhood group has been in talks with the city about converting the land to greenspace since 2016. He said the lot’s use won’t change much once it’s converted.
“I think it definitely would be a good use of the land,” Barnes said. “Our primary opposition is people don’t want it to be a destination park with more cars, traffic, teens (misbehaving). I don’t think that’s a reality, but you never know what things will turn into. Nothing will really change too much beyond today.”
He said one of the design options for the property included a small community garden, but it was more expensive than the one the city chose. Barnes added he hopes private, state or federal dollars can be used for the park’s conversion instead of city funds.