By David Pendered
The exuberant Zoey pulled on her leash as she and her companion, Julie Glasson, strolled around Windsor Meadows Park, the newest pocket park in a metro region where residents clamor for more greenspace. These smaller gathering places are likely the future of public places as land for parks becomes ever more dear.
Weighing in at 4.27 acres, Windsor Meadows isn’t intended to be a regional destination. The size does make it an ideal neighborhood resource for residents in this southern stretch of Sandy Springs. These nearby residents include Glasson, whose home is just around the corner from the park.
“It’s a very nice area, very clean and beautiful and, with the trees, it’s 10 degrees cooler,” Glasson said on a warm and sunny day last week. “The landscaping is beautiful. It’s heard to believe we’re in the city.”
The City of Sandy Springs hosted a ribbon-cutting at the park Sept. 14, formally ending a park development process that has been underway – at least unofficially – since it became clear in 2009 that the site on the bank of Nancy Creek would no longer serve as a residential site. Flooding in the 500-year floodplain was too great of an issue.
Windsor Meadows Park joins Atlanta’s Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park as the region’s two most recently opened parks on floodplains. They speak to the growing movement in the region to turn to unconventional areas to provide greenspace. One major example is the Big Creek Greenway in north Fulton County, which stretches some 20 miles and which has been closed at times due to flooding of up to 11 feet, according a report from the National Weather Service.
At Windsor Meadows Park, three homes once stood on the tract of land that now serves as the park. All three ranch houses were destroyed when Nancy Creek flooded in the autumn of 2009 during a rain event the National Weather Service described as “catastrophic.” Rainfall amounts estimated at 10 inches to 20 inches were recorded around metro Atlanta, according to a report from the weather service.
The Sandy Springs Conservancy saw in the property the opportunity to bring a neighborhood park to an area in need of greenspace. The city had acquired ownership of the property in 2012 via a federal flood relief program.
“This was such a shimmering potential,” said Linda Bain, the conservancy’s current executive director emeritus who headed the organization at the time the park was acquired and planned.
“Why?,” Bain asked. “Because it sets on Nancy Creek and next to a busy arterial [road] in Sandy Springs. The idea that evolved that we could make a pocket park as a neighborhood amenity.”
And so the campaign was launched to gather community support for the planned park. As with some similar efforts around the region, the plan for Windsor Meadows Park wasn’t a slam dunk among neighbors, according to Molly Welch, a board member of the conservancy and owner of W Landscape Designs, which crafted a conceptual landscape plan that installed some seating but did not alter the topography of the site.
One reason for resistance was the endless stream of all terrain vehicles whose riders had discovered the vacant site and made it their own. These thrill-seekers reinforced among some residents the precarious sense of public safety that exists along Windsor Parkway.
This road is a bustling east-west connector between Chastain Park – and the nightlife scene along Roswell Road – and the northern reaches of Brookhaven and Buckhead. Windsor Parkway and Mt. Paran Road share the dubious distinction as the inside-the-Perimeter routes to avoid traffic, and police surveillance, on I-285.
Nonetheless, the conservancy’s campaign gained momentum.
At this point in the conversation, Bain and Welch paused to recall those who supported the plan. Two names stood out.
Chip Collins, a conservancy board member and former city councilmember, helped craft the city’s first greenspace policy for properties acquired with help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
David Perez, then president of one of the area’s larger civic associations, said his group supported the plan. The High Point Civic Association went so far as to raise money for the planned park.
When all was said and done, the price of the completed park came in at $189,980, according to Welch.
Melody Harclerode, the conservancy’s executive director since March 2017, said the Windsor Meadows Park is just the latest of many contributions the conservancy intends to provide.
“An indication of the role of the conservancy, and the value we add in Sandy Springs, is we build a partnership with public and private entities to build parks, greenspace, trails, and engage the community,” Harclerode said. “We don’t rest on our laurels.”