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South DeKalb YMCA green space proposal makes sense

8/15/2014, 6 a.m.

By Belinda Pedroso

On Aug. 3, I attended the walking tour of the South DeKalb YMCA proposed green space project. I was pleasantly surprised: 18 acres of woodland, one acre of infrastructure, soccer fields, golf green, an outdoor pavilion, etc. This is an “inner city” wonder and a great “vision” for green space in DeKalb County. I support this project!

This green space project is a good opportunity for DeKalb. The project supports concepts of environmental protection, healthy living and is also financially prudent.

Over the years, I have supported environmentally sensible projects while serving on the DeKalb County Green Commission and through my work at the League of Women Voters.

My reasons for supporting this project are simple. The project preserves a rare inner-city wooded environment, the concept promotes healthy living and “it makes dollars and sense.”

First, I would like to address the public-private partnership issue, which appears to be creating quite a stir.

Public-private partnerships are everywhere (the new Georgia Dome, the new Turner Field and in DeKalb County – Callanwolde). This is not a new phenomenon. The government has been engaging in public-private partnerships for decades. They are known to stimulate growth, spur development of other business entities, utilize an underutilized asset and are a great source of leveraging private interests. They do not mean privatizing public services or assets. Simply put, it is just a mechanism/tool to “stretch” tax funds to stimulate economic growth more cost efficiently than the government could do with only tax dollars.

Here are the three reasons why I support this project:

  • It is an environmentally sensible project and innovative idea.
  • DeKalb residents get an 18-acre green space that can be used by any DeKalb resident. There is no fee for using the green space; walking, biking, jogging will be afforded to all DeKalb residents. Preserving this green space in a densely populated urban environment is tantamount to DeKalb initiating the creation of a “Belt Line.” This is how we begin connecting communities.
  • The green space concept promotes healthy living.
  • The DeKalb County Board of Health 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey found, among other things, that 35 percent of DeKalb residents are overweight, 24 percent are obese and only 47 percent get the recommended amount of physical activity per day.
  • These health indicators are particularly alarming, especially for those residents who live in commission districts 3 and 7 and some parts of 6.
  • DeKalb County residents are also rated high for chronic diseases like cancer morbidity, heart disease morbidity, diabetes, asthma and diabetes.
  • An outdoor, environmentally conducive green space could help reduce these health indicators.
  • Finally, the partnership makes dollars and sense.

The green space project is cost-effective. The YMCA is responsible for the continued maintenance, repair and replacement of the public asset.

This project is a no-brainer. We invest $5 million today and at the end of 50 years, receive an asset in which another entity has invested more than $5 million.

Belinda Pedroso lives in Decatur. She is incoming president of the DeKalb Section of the National Council of Negro Women and a former president of the League of Women Voters.