What is happening to Big Creek Park?
The proposal to clear-cut 60 acres of trees and park land to make way for a privately-owned and operated 100+ tennis court facility has been tabled for now. For this we are incredibly grateful to the citizens of Roswell, the mountain biking and hiking communities around Atlanta, and the tens of thousands of supporters who signed the Change.org petition.
But the future of Big Creek Park remains uncertain.
This proposal and the ensuing backlash was hopefully a wake-up call both to the politicians of Roswell and the community. We cannot take our public spaces for granted. We must continue to stay informed and involved so that we can influence any future development concerning Big Creek Park.
WHAT WAS THE FUSS ALL ABOUT ANYWAY?
RELEVANT LINKS: Proposal
Memorandum of Understanding (this is what was up for a vote by city council)
Big Creek Park has two main sections, both owned by the city of Roswell: (1) mixed-use walking/hiking and biking trails (the area affected by the Krause proposal) and (2) the greenway portion of the park, including bathroom facilities and the southern end of a paved greenway which extends north into Forsyth County.
The city announced a plan on August 9th to develop 60 acres of the city-owned park land (all of the hiking/walking nature trails and a large proportion of mountain bike trails) into a “sprawling multimillion dollar tennis complex”.
This AJC article details the proposed new development: Roswell Tennis Complex Planned As International Destination
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) dedicating 60 acres of Big Creek to the Krause Foundation is no longer on the agenda for the Monday, August 13th city council meeting.
Why is this a bad idea?
1. SAVE PARK LAND FOR PARKS, NOT PRIVATE DEVELOPMENT -- PUBLIC LAND, ONCE DEVELOPED, IS GONE FOREVER!
- This project will mean permanent reduction of green space, loss of wildlife and will drastically impact the watershed which drains into Big Creek.
- This project involves leasing public lands to a private developer. What happens to these facilities if the project is not successful (like many other large area tennis facilities) when the lease expires?
- Loss of trails is much more than reduced green space. These trails serve as centers for youth activities, competitive bike races, and casual recreation for residents well beyond the neighborhoods surrounding the park.
2. BIG CREEK PARK BIKE TRAILS ARE UNIQUE IN THE METRO AREA, TENNIS FACILITIES ARE NOT!
- There is no other system of mountain biking trails in the city of Roswell and the next set of trails that comes close is more than 20 miles away.
- These trails draw riders and racing teams from all over the Southeast!
- Big Creek's mountain biking trails include beginner/intermediate/expert XC trails, a pump track, downhill trails, free ride features and a BMX park.
- This project replicates amenities already widely available (often for FREE) in Roswell. Roswell has 88 facilities comprising 292 tennis courts within a 5 mile radius of this proposed development.
- Big Creek currently serves it recreational users with a comparatively small parking lot. This new facility means overcrowding and increased traffic. How much additional traffic will now be coming down an already overcrowded corridor in Roswell?
4. SUPPORTERS OF THIS PROPOSAL HAVE NOT BEEN FORTHCOMING WITH THE PUBLIC.
- Mayor Lori Henry made campaign promises to “protect Roswell’s charm AND established neighborhoods” this project flies in the face of both. Source: Lori Henry 2017 campaign flyer
- This project has been kept, "tightly under wraps" - this is not how decisions involving park land should be made. Source: YouTube (video taken down on 8/11)
- Disadvantaged and special-needs children will not be the main beneficiaries of this proposal as Vernon Krause indicated was part of his family's original intention in developing the project. “It started out an idea for a small facility that would serve underprivileged and special needs children, and it grew after a meeting with the city of Roswell." Source: WSBtv
5. TO REVITALIZE EAST ROSWELL, THERE ARE OTHER, BETTER OPTIONS.
- Focus on making productive use of empty big boxes along the Holcomb Bridge Corridor (defunct Kohls near Centennial High School, empty Super Target space across from Horseshoe Bend neighborhood, empty Circuit City at intersection of Holcomb Bridge and Old Alabama.)
What can I do to help save Big Creek Park?
We are encouraging concerned Roswell residents to do two things:
WRITE | Email Mayor Henry and the Roswell City Council to express your concern over the way the Krause Family Foundation proposal was handled and the lack of transparency with the citizens of Roswell.
ATTEND | On Monday August 13th at 7:00 pm at City Hall in Roswell, the mayor and city council will meet as usual. The Krause tennis center has been taken off of the official agenda for the meeting, but many still plan to show up at City Hall.
WHY? Because while we have been successful in tabling this proposal for the time being, there are NO PERMANENT PROTECTIONS in place for the hiking and biking trails at Big Creek. Nothing stands in the way of this happening again in 6 months when another developer or a lucrative project is proposed to the city.
Concerned members of the community are still encouraged to gather on the steps of City Hall at 5pm Monday, August 13th. We will be there to show our continued support for the future of Big Creek Park, to celebrate this victory, and to let local leaders know that we are paying attention.
Printable signs available here.