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Property on North Parkwood Road in Decatur set to become greenspace

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Property on North Parkwood Road in Decatur set to become greenspace

The city of Decatur is set to purchase the property at 1010 N. Parkwood Road and use it to expand Hidden Cove Park. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — The little red house at 1010 N. Parkwood Road in Decatur is slated to become greenspace and expand Hidden Cove Park. The greenspace is also a nod to the longtime residents of that home, Andy and Louise Plankenhorn.   

The Decatur City Commission, at its April 3 meeting, approved the purchase of the property for $400,000. 

The Plankenhorns built their home on Parkwood Road about 65 years ago. They raised three daughters there, and both of them worked in education. Andy and Louise were avid gardeners and were constantly working in their yard. 

Louise passed away about eight years ago, and Andy passed away last year at 94. 

“When he was 92, 93, he was still out there mowing the grass,” said Lynn Hood, one of the Plankenhorns’ daughters. “He loved to work out in the yard. They collected native plants, so there are lots of ferns. There are lots of wild flowers.”

Hood, along with her two sister, currently owns the property.

“What a wonderful thing to be able to go over there and have a picnic in the place where we grew up and see other people enjoying it and having their children there running around would be an incredible experience,” Hood said. “Because it’s a dead end, and it butts up to another park, this really is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to increase that greenspace.”

The property is one lot that’s about half an acre. It’s located next to the city’s Hidden Cove Park. 

“There is a single family home on the property, otherwise it’s grass and trees,” City Manager Andrea Arnold said. “I do believe that it makes sense for the city to acquire this property, primarily because of the connection with an existing greenspace.” 

The purchase is consistent with a few of the city’s master plans, including the 2020 strategic plan, the stormwater master plan and the parks and recreation master plan, which the city commission recently adopted. The city has funds available in the general fund to cover the cost. Closing is anticipated by mid-May. 

“I’m really excited that we’re able to acquire this property,” Commissioner George Dusenbury said. “I think it’ll be a great gateway to Hidden Cove Park coming off of North Parkwood.”

The late Andy and Louise Plankenhorn stand in front of azaleas at their home on North Parkwood Road in Decatur. Photos courtesy of Lynn Hood.

Andy was always outside and always working on something. In addition to working in his yard, he would clean out sticks, logs and other things out of the creek by his house. Andy also helped build the path in Hidden Cove Park. 

He began volunteering with Woodlands Garden at the age of 87 and continued to volunteer until he was about 93. The family dedicated a tree to Andy at Woodlands Garden when he turned 90. 

“He came up with the idea [for a] native fern garden and worked with them. I think he supplied a lot of the ferns and funded it. So, there’s a native fern garden that’s going to be developing over the years at Woodland [Gardens],” Hood said. 

At that little red house, the yard gave the Plankenhorn sisters a big space to play, and they enjoyed playing games like badminton and croquet. They’d play with the other neighborhood kids and even enjoy the creek. The backyard is also where they learned how to ride a bike.

Louise loved working in the yard too. She and Andy would spend their afternoons weeding, planting and going through things, Hood said. 

“Every evening they would sit on the back porch…and have their wine and goldfish or crackers before dinner,” Hood said. “The joke was they’d solve the world’s problems back there.”

Many of the neighbors have been in the neighborhood for decades, and all the kids knew Mr. Andy. 

“He was such a character. He loved to play with them,” Hood said. “To be able to have this for them, for the neighbors, it’s just something really special.”

Some neighbors had asked Andy if they could have an Easter egg hunt, which became an annual event at the Plankenhorn house. And it never failed that Andy would find a couple of plastic eggs leftover from the hunt. He once found an egg in a tree that a squirrel had picked up.

The property is in a floodplain and the amount of flooding in the area has increased. When the property floods, water comes to the bottom of the house, but not in the house, Hood said. 

“That would also help from a conservation standpoint to protect that land and give the creek more room to overflow and to go through there,” she added. 

Since there was no damage to the home, the Plankenhorns didn’t get flood insurance, so FEMA funds aren’t available to buy the property. 

Hidden Cove Park was also created from homes that were in the floodplain. 

“They kept flooding out. They had made flood insurance claims with FEMA,” resident Phillip McGinnis said. “FEMA and the city of Decatur worked together to buy out all the houses that were located in that portion of Westchester Drive, and then they demolished those houses and made it public park land.”

At the March 6 city commission meeting, McGinnis, president of the Westchester Hills Neighborhood Association, asked the city commission to consider purchasing the property and preserve it as greenspace. 

“Andy was a big gardener and he landscaped that property beautifully,” McGinnis told Decaturish. “He was also instrumental in helping maintain Hidden Cove Park and Hidden Cove Trail that the kids used to walk to Westchester Elementary from that part of Decatur.”

He helped hold a community meeting at Westchester Elementary in February where neighbors discussed how the property fit into the stormwater master plan, as well as Decatur’s PATH connectivity and implementation plan. The consensus from residents was to have the property be passive greenspace. 

About 177 neighbors signed a petition to turn the property into greenspace. 

“Some of the benefits are increasing the greenspace in the neighborhood, expanding the park, which is a huge amenity for our neighborhoods,” McGinnis said. “Another benefit of it would be reducing development [of] a potential new house or new development that could potentially impact the floodplain in that area, to protect the stream banks and creek.”

He added that since the property is at the end of the street, it was a “no-brainer for a park.”

The home of Andy and Louise Plankenhorn on North Parkwood Road in Decatur is set to become city-owned greenspace. Photo courtesy of Lynn Hood.

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