DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond issued an executive order Friday afternoon closing Intrenchment Creek Park due to “dangerous and possible life-threatening conditions.”
Thurmond said the park, which has been a flashpoint for demonstrations and confrontations between activists and law enforcement over the construction of Atlanta’s new public safety training center, is potentially full of hidden traps.
During an afternoon press conference, Thurmond said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found traps, including boards covered with nails, around the park and believe there could be more.
“We take this very serious action because we know there are dangers that have been discovered in this area and we are afraid that there might be other hidden traps that will not only injure and maim but could literally become deadly for children, pets and others,” Thurmond said.
He said DeKalb officials have been blocked from doing their own inspection of the site by activists. “When we sent out employees they were attacked with rocks and other objects,” Thurmond said.
Thurmond’s executive order came the same day that Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced the members of the new South River Forest and Public Safety Training Center Community Task Force, which will provide input on the development of the training center and surrounding land.
The more than 40 members of the new task force are to be divided into four subgroups to make recommendations on parks and greenspace; memorializing, and repurposing the Old Atlanta Prison Farm site; sustainability; and coming up with the police, fire and E-911 training curriculum.
The group is set to begin meeting in April and make recommendations to the mayor in July. More information is at www.atltrainingcenter.com. The Atlanta Police Foundation is in charge of developing and building the facility.
The new task force members are:
Gerald Griggs, attorney and president of the Georgia NAACP
Bishop Kevin Strickland of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
Blake Fortune, community member
Bonita Johnson of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Christopher Bruce, director of Policy and Advocacy, ACLU of Georgia
Cicely Garrett, community member
David Paull, CompostNow
Donna Stephens, organizer to save Chattahoochee Brick Company
Douglas Blackmon, author of “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II,” won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009
Dr. Bryant Marks, AUC staff and associate professor of psychology at Morehouse College
Dr. Gerald Durley, former pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta and climate change activist
Dr. LaToria Whitehead, LS White Group and teaches at Spelman College
Dr. Rashad Richey, radio personality
Dr. Volkan Topalli,professor of Criminal Justice at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University
Dr. Yomi Noibi, Eco Action
George Dusenbury, Georgia director for Trust for Public Land
Greta G. deMayo, PATH Foundation Creator
Janese Coleman, community member
Jay Bassett, retired from the EPA
Jill Savitt, president and CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Leo Smith, political consultant
Lewis Woodson, community activist and park advocate
Linda Adams, community member
Lisa Tuttle, board member of Arts Xchange
Lynnette Reid, director of Planning for Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.
Marc Bolden, community member
Michael Halicki, executive director of Park Pride
Michelle Blackmon, executive director of the Grant Park Conservancy
Monica Thornton, executive director of The Nature Conservancy
Nina Cutler, community member
Rabbi Peter Berg, senior rabbi at The Temple
John Prevost, retired Georgia State Patrol officer and community member
Rev. Gary Burke, pastor of Lakewood Church of Hope
Robbie Hunter, president of Graymont Drive Neighborhood Association
Sabir Khan, artist
Samyukth Shenbaga, manager of Atlanta Regional Commission’s Community Development division
Samuel Bacote, community member
Sheffield Hale, president and CEO of the Atlanta History Center
Stacy Funderburke of The Conservation Club
Susan Evans of Atlanta Housing
Tsedey Betru, BeTru Consulting
Morieka Johnson, community member
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in our vital public safety needs and establish the largest park the city of Atlanta would own,” Mayor Dickens said in a news release.
“I want the community at the head of the table, sharing their expertise and aspirations. I look forward to receiving recommendations which will continue to inform the training center and the parks, trails and community spaces our communities can be proud of,” he said.
The controversial training center is being built on 85-acres of city-owned land in the South River Forest in Dekalb County. Opponents of the training center call it “Cop City” because of the massive size of the facility and because it will include a “mock city” for police training.
Numerous protests have taken place at the site and dozens of people arrested in police sweeps. A Georgia State Patrol officer was wounded during a January raid of the forest, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, that also resulted in the fatal shooting of environmental activist Manuel Terán.