Daily photo by Gary Lloyd|
Disrepair on Dry Branch: An overgrown deck is attached to an old motorhome on the private park grounds of the Rev. A.C. Strong on Fourth Avene Northwest near Finley Road. Strong used private funds to construct the park that fronts Dry Branch Creek, but now it’s in disrepair.
Blight on Dry Branch Creek
Neighbors say private park a nuisance; sick owner says he’s willing to sell it to city ‘at a good price’
By Deangelo McDaniel
A private park that Northwest Decatur residents once used has turned into a nuisance that city leaders say they knew nothing about.
The man who constructed the park said he is willing to sell it to the city “at a good price” because he can no longer maintain it due to health reasons.
“I know it looks bad, but I’m doing what I can to get it clean,” the Rev. A.C. Strong said.
The park is on Fourth Avenue Northwest near Finley Road and fronts Dry Branch Creek.
Strong used private money to construct barbecue pits, a walking pier to the creek, fishing stations and a concrete pad to launch boats and canoes.
“When the water is up, you can launch a boat here and go to the Tennessee River,” he said.
Strong said he constructed the park because he wanted people in Northwest Decatur to have some of the recreational facilities that other parts of Decatur have.
“I never planned to let it get in this shape, and I hope the city will be patient with me as I try to clean it up,” he said.
The park is in City Councilman Billy Jackson’s District 1. Jackson said Monday that he was not aware of the park’s existence and refused to comment further.
Mayor Don Kyle said he will visit the site. As for buying the property or accepting it as a gift, Kyle said he is willing to discuss that possibility with the council.
Homeowners in the area said they used the park as recently as three years ago and remember when it was nice.
The park is on shady, slopping property. It has a brick entrance and exit, a metal pavilion, a tricycle merry-go-round for children that’s still operable and an office that Strong said his maintenance man used.
But there is also plenty of blight, including an inoperable vehicle, overgrown weeds and old church pews.
Decatur’s ordinance requires the housing of inoperable vehicles, which include those without license plates, discarded household furnishings, scrap, or junk within an approved, enclosed, covered structure so as not to be viewable from a public right of way.
David Lee, the city’s code enforcement officer, was not available for comment, and Kyle said he was not aware of the city receiving any complaints about the property.
The Daily received several complaints about the park and noticed that some efforts to comply with city ordinances have been initiated.
Between reporters’ visits to the site, for example, an inoperable pontoon boat was removed and someone was cutting vegetation.
Strong, who is receiving dialysis treatments, said he had a caretaker who apparently was not doing a good job.
“I wanted this park to be nice, and I will do anything the city is requesting to get it right,” he said.
The pastor said he allowed residents to use the park free. He said he’s willing to sell it to Decatur if the city wants to talk with him.
Some neighbors in the area said they thought the city already owned the park.
A caller to The Daily complained about the city not maintaining the park. But the park is private property, and state law prohibits the city from doing work on private property.
“If the city can bear with me, I will make this something they will be proud of,” Strong said.
Decatur City Council President Billy Jackson says he was aware of a private park in his District 1 when a newspaper reporter asked him about the conditions there recently. He said the article should have quoted him as saying he wasn't aware of the blight.
He refused further comment about the park for the original article.
The Daily is happy to set the record straight.
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