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PAST TENSE

Opinion: How Ashford-Dunwoody Road came to have a planted median

The announcement that Ashford Dunwoody Road would be widened came in 1980, nine years after the opening of Perimeter Mall. The community of Dunwoody opposed the widening, predicting it would lead to commercial development in its residential areas.

The Dunwoody Homeowner’s Association started a petition and worked to stop the widening of Ashford Dunwoody Road and of Mount Vernon Road. Protestors gathered along the side of the road with signs.

Attorney Bill Hurst filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the DHA asking for a court ordered injunction to halt the four-lane construction.

The DHA was successful in stopping the widening of Mount Vernon Road, except for the section from Ashford Dunwoody Road to the Fulton/DeKalb County line. They were also able to keep the speed limit from increasing from 35 miles per hour to 45 miles per hour. (“The Queen of Dunwoody: Remembering Community Visionary Joyce Amacher,” by Lynne Barfield Byrd)

Although the plan to widen Ashford Dunwoody Road was not stopped, DHA President Terry Huetter felt the efforts of the community to stop the project did have a positive effect, saying “It probably wouldn’t have ended up being a parkway otherwise.” (Atlanta Constitution, April 23, 1981, “Homeowners cringe as Ashford-Dunwoody expands”)

Once the battle to stop the four-lane expansion of Ashford Dunwoody Road was lost, the Dunwoody Garden Club campaign to beautify the median began. The club decided to make the best of the situation, led by club President Joyce Amacher. (Dunwoody Crier, March 25, 1982, “Ashford Dunwoody median landscaping begun last week”)

After several conversations with Tom Moreland, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation, Joyce Amacher and Lynne Byrd were able to convince him to use funds intended for a concrete median toward landscaping.

After conversations with DeKalb County officials, members knew they would need to produce a design, find financing and maintain the design. The estimated cost was $60,000. Garden Club members went to developers and tenants in the Perimeter area, local civic organizations, local businesses and elected officials. All property owners on Ashford Dunwoody Road between I-285 and Mt. Vernon Road were asked to participate.

County Commissioner Jean Williams assisted Amacher in obtaining $10,000 from the developers of the Ravinia-Hines Development. A donation of $10,000 was also secured from Lane Properties. State Rep. Bruce Widener was able to secure $16,000 from the state. Taylor and Mathis paid for the landscape plan, which was completed by Hickory Hill Landscaping.

The original landscaping plan called for a variety of maple and oak trees, along with Bradford pears, a variety of shrubbery and 18,000 pieces of ground cover. The median is maintained today by the Perimeter Community Improvement District.

A DOT official predicted in 1981 that traffic would increase 60 to 70 percent over the next 20 years. I would not begin to guess how much it has increased as of 2022.

Email Valerie at pasttensega@gmail.com or visit her website at pasttensega.com.

Past Tense

Award-winning author Valerie Biggerstaff is a longtime columnist for Appen Media and the Dunwoody Crier. She lives in Sandy Springs.