ATLANTA -- Kevin Ward loves living in the city in the forest.
"It's old growth, it's lots of shade, big trees, spaces between the trees," said Ward. "It's a real treasure for the city of Atlanta."
His Grant Park neighborhood offers all of that and more, but fences, caution tape, and trees with "X"s put the community on alert of what they could lose.
Ward and others are concerned that two projects will mean the removal of some 250 trees in the area that he says are mature and healthy.
That's why you’ll see signs while driving up and down Boulevard calling for people to save the trees and sign their petition. It already has more than 4,300 signatures.
According to Ward, a planned expansion to the Atlanta Zoo and a proposed multi-level parking deck to alleviate parking issues would totally change the landscape of the community.
He's hoping city leaders can help find a compromise that doesn't leave them without a key piece of their neighborhood.
"There's a need for more parking, but not at the expense of a forest of trees," said Ward.
The Atlanta Zoo provided the following statement:
Zoo Atlanta has supported the City of Atlanta’s Grant Park Gateway Project for its many projected benefits and improvements to parking and mobility for the entire Grant Park community, not just Zoo Atlanta. Although the Zoo’s Grand New View Project and the City’s Grant Park Gateway Project are on similar timelines, these are two different projects. Trees which are to be removed for Zoo Atlanta projects have been through a fully vetted recompense program. These trees were originally offered to Grant Park itself for recompense; however, Grant Park was not in a position to accept them. It was necessary that they be recompensed in another location, and have already been recompensed along the western side of the Atlanta Beltline.
The Zoo has been a Grant Park resident since 1889 – almost as long as Grant Park has existed. As a conservation organization, Zoo Atlanta has great appreciation for the park’s natural resources and the valuable native ecosystems found surrounding the Zoo and within the Zoo itself.
As a Grant Park resident for more than 128 years, Zoo Atlanta has observed firsthand the dramatic increase in the popularity of this historic neighborhood. Grant Park now draws many thousands of visitors to the area every year for festivals, 5k races, reunions, picnics and more.
The Zoo supports the Grant Park Gateway Project as an amenity that will offer greenspace, parking solutions and improved accessibility for this community and its visitors for years to come.
The city of Atlanta also released a response:
For the past two years, the Department of Parks and Recreation hosted multiple meetings with various stakeholders, community members and civic organizations to discuss and address concerns regarding traffic congestion and parking in the Grant Park community. The City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation unveiled plans on April 25, 2017 for the $48 million Grant Park Gateway Project, a new underground parking and mobility solution featuring park space on the roof of the facility with green infrastructure elements and a restaurant highlighting regional cuisine.
The many community engagements resulted in an expanded project scope of the Grant Park Gateway Project to include additional requests made by the community including a green roof with active greenspace usage, public art, storm-water mitigation and erosion control, improved pedestrian and park circulation and the multi-level mobility solution to be built semi-underground and on grade with Boulevard. The project team has also involved other city agencies to explore other investments that will compliment this project once completed.
The Grant Park Gateway Project will comply with the City of Atlanta Tree Protection Ordinance, and follow best-in-class design principles. Currently, there are more than 4,000 trees in Grant Park and this project requires that only three percent of the total trees be removed. One hundred percent of these trees will be replenished, inch-for-inch, back into Grant Park during a two-year period. In addition, we are currently making maximum effort to protect our tree canopy while meeting the project’s objectives and commitments.
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