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Decatur Environmental Sustainability Board discusses parks, recreation master plan

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Decatur Environmental Sustainability Board discusses parks, recreation master plan

The floor of the new gym at the Ebster Recreation Center. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Decatur, GA — The city of Decatur is in the process of creating a parks and recreation master plan. The city and planner from Perez Planning and Design met with the Decatur Environmental Sustainability Board on Friday, July 22, to discuss the plan.

The project is expected to be completed in March 2023.

The city is wrapping up the first two phases of the project and will soon transition into planning the long-range vision for the parks and recreation department. There are a couple of ways individuals can provide input on the plan by taking the online survey or submitting comments through the HAPPiFEET- City of Decatur phone app.

To take the survey, click here.

Sara Holmes, assistant director for Active Living, said the app will only be live for the duration of the master planning process, and it is not replacing See-Click-Fix, the city’s public works, and maintenance app.

The goal of the master plan is to create a long-term, community-supported vision for how Decatur will move the parks and recreation system forward, according to the project website.

The city is looking to plan facility and program needs for the next 10 years.

“What we’re really hoping to do with this plan is to create a long range, community supportive vision,” said Nick Stephens, planner with Perez Planning and Design.

Throughout the planning process, the team will collect an inventory and assessment of facilities and programs to understand what land the city has, what land the city could gain, and how the programs are going, Stephens said.

“Some of the opportunities that were identified by the city would be to expand the facilities. Obviously, Decatur is growing population wise, but in land area, not so much,” Stephens said. “Of course, protecting the greenspace that you have. The main thing is to definitely be considerate of all the community’s needs, and to of course keep ensuring that the services that are delivered are really high quality…”

Perez Planning and Design, along with the city, will eventually hold a workshop to present the findings and think about how those will come together in the future in terms of capital improvements, changing schedules of staffing, changing programs, and looking at revenue and other funding sources, Stephens said.

Some feedback from the board included having connectivity between the parks.

“When you do that, you create a master park that is much bigger than the sum of its individual pieces, and it goes hand-in-hand with walkability, biking,” board member Rich Malerba said. “When you connect the parks…instead of just going out on a walking path that’s one mile, I might be able to walk 15 miles in the city.”

The board also asked the city to look into the space needs at Ebster Park and maintenance of the PATH trail.

In other business:

– The city has secured an intern through the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Sustainable Connections Internship Program who will help with projects including the green business certification program and the compost feasibility study.

– The state Public Service Commission met on July 21 and rendered a decision on Georgia Power’s Integrated Resource Plan. Decatur, along with Atlanta, Savannah, Athens-Clarke County and DeKalb County intervened in the plan and are the first municipalities to do so.

“No municipality has formally intervened in the IRP process ever since its inception,” Decatur Energy and Sustainability Manager David Nifong explained at the March 7 Decatur City Commission meeting.

The PSC amended the stipulations that the city signed on to. Some highlights from the meeting included adding 500 megawatts of battery storage back into the agreement, and increasing Georgia Power’s energy efficiency savings targets by 15%.

The cities and counties were advocating for energy efficiency and more access to renewable energy during Georgia Power’s process to plan its electricity demand and strategies to meet needs over the next 20 years.

The city of Decatur, along with the city of Savannah, Athens-Clarke County, and DeKalb County formed a coalition to help with improving Georgia Power’s existing and proposed energy-efficiency programs, enhancing customers’ access to demand and usage data, and increasing access to renewable energy and distributed energy resources for residential and commercial customers.

In January, Georgia Power filed its 2022 Integrate Resource Plan to the Public Service Commission. The IRP outlines Georgia Power’s energy efficiency and energy production strategies to meet their forecasted electricity demand, he said.

“They’re required to do that every three years under the Integrated Resource Planning Act of 1991,” Nifong previously said. “It’s a somewhat lengthy process where the PSC reviews their plans, other parties intervene into the case, and then the PSC either approves or denies their plan.”

The IRP lays out Georgia Power’s plan to transition its fleet to more economical and cleaner resources, double its renewable and solar capacity, focus on energy storage solutions, and offer energy efficiency programs for customers, according to a press release.

Nifong will make a recommendation to the Decatur City Commission at its Aug. 1 meeting to intervene in Georgia Power’s rate case.

The rate case determines how much revenue Georgia Power can collect, how much should be collected from each rate class, as well as the rate schedules and tariffs available to each class. The 2022 rate case was filed on June 24, Nifong previously said.

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