Brookhaven, GA, December 16, 2015 – Letter to the Editor, by Ryan Cranford – With the recent development plans pertaining to Brookhaven’s Park System, I wanted to highlight a perspective regarding one specific location. Brookhaven Park sits as a large natural expanse in the middle of one of the busiest parts of the city. I’m sure visitors have noticed the lack of hardscape, open fields, and untouched natural beauty of the site. What I’m sure most have also noticed is the large amount of four legged visitors the park currently caters to.
After moving to Brookhaven three years ago, I have come to frequent the park on an almost daily basis usually accompanied by my dog. We rescued our pup who came from a tough environment and the park has been a great space where he feels comfortable while developing social skills. I found that I was not alone in enjoying this space. On a given weekday afternoon you can find the park being enjoyed by numerous dogs and their owners. I’d estimate this makes up nearly 80% of the traffic. Due to the open nature of the space it has developed into a quite unique place where dogs are allowed to run free in a controlled off-leash environment. While other dog specific park sections exist such as Piedmont or even closer to home at Brook Run, they are more confined failing to provide the social (both human and canine) or natural atmosphere that Brookhaven Park does.
The off leash nature (as it currently exists) in the park does not represent wild chaos. Due to the open space, owners are forced to be more responsible for their dogs. The BPD has even been out on occasion to enforce ticketing for those who have been lax not having a leash on their person. You will find the owners present do both an individual and communal job in policing the activities of the dogs. In fact a large social bond has been established between many of the regulars who come on a frequent basis. Big dogs, small puppies, and everything in between can be found interacting positively. When other activities take precedent such as weekly kickball games, Ultimate Frisbee matches, and even weekend long events such as cook-offs and festivals, dog owners are happy to relocate themselves to different areas.
As the city has been reviewing proposed draft specific site plans for its parks, this one has caused a bit of debate between dog owners, residents, and the city council. The current draft outlines development that would reduce the available space utilized by dogs and their owners by around 80%. While I probably appear quite subjective in this discussion I am certainly not immune to the fact the current layout may raise concerns. As an insurance professional I understand the liability aspect that accompanies such an environment.
Planning to be a future Brookhaven parent, I understand the potential concerns interactions of dogs with children could pose. As a taxpayer, I understand that common pieces of land should try to cater to all types of users. We should examine steps to make sure these concerns are addressed. The goal is not to hijack the park for dogs.
I certainly understand that this is not an “official” dog park and that others want to utilize the space as well. I also understand it is a special atmosphere that has been established and a large contingent of the primary park users want to preserve it however possible. Numerous other parks specialize in certain things like large playgrounds, athletics, running trails, etc. without any dog activities whatsoever. With the proposed plan, the dog activities would most likely cease for the majority of current users.
Improving our parks and preserving our natural spaces are great. I’d assume that when these plans were drawn they had the intention to provide park system improvements on a uniform basis. The recent concerns raised by the dog contingent stem more from recognizing that Brookhaven Park is quite unique in its makeup compared to other parks. The thought is less is more. While development seems inevitable, the goal is to preserve that unique nature as much as possible. My hope is that the park can continue to serve the needs of multiple users, but thorough evaluation will take place prior to advancing on the current plans.
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