Changes to Stone Mountain Park will be considered at May 24 meeting

Eventually, the Stone Mountain Action Coalition wants at least the consideration of modifying or removing the giant Confederate carving that looms over the park. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

Stone Mountain, GA — The Stone Mountain Memorial Association will meet on May 24 to discuss proposed changes to the park meant to address the controversy surrounding its Confederate symbols.

The meeting starts at 10:30 a.m. with a joint meeting of the SMMA’s Development and Finance Committee, followed by the board meeting at 1 p.m. To see the agenda and attendance instructions, click here.

At its last meeting, the SMMA talked about the need to make changes to avoid losing sponsors and vendors. Stone Mountain Park CEO Bill Stephens on April 26 presented new ideas and changes for the state-owned park.

Stephens hopes to find a “reasonable, common sense middle ground which recognizes both history and heritage,” that also complies with the state laws that protect Confederate monuments, he said.

Park officials proposed a plan that would expand exhibition space to create more room to tell a more complete story of the Confederate monument carved onto the side of Stone Mountain. The proposal also included moving the Confederate flags near the carving. Stephens’ recommendations additionally included adding a new “faith and freedom” chapel on top of the mountain. The changes could cost at least $1.2 million if approved by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association board in May, according to the Georgia Recorder.

The infamous carving on the mountain would remain with no changes under the proposal. It is the country’s largest Confederate monument and is protected under state law, though the law hasn’t stopped other communities like Decatur from removing their monuments.

Under the proposal Stephens presented, some street names could change to honor significant Georgians but the main roads in the park, like Robert E. Lee Boulevard, will remain. The board could also consider changing the logo to one that focuses more of the natural landscape of the park rather than the carving.

Confederate Hall, which serves as the headquarters for park staff and other educational programs, could also be renamed to Heritage Hall or another option.

Stephens also outlined some financial concerns. Park revenue fell to $22 million last year from $49 million in 2019.

Marriott, the park’s primary hotel and conference center, plans to pull out of the park next year, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. Silver Dollar City-Stone Mountain Park also notified the board that it plans to end their relationship in August 2022, according to the AJC.

Stephens has had conversations with other potential sponsors but they said that unless the board does something about the Confederacy issue, they’re not going to bid on a contract, he said.

Reporter Zoe Seiler contributed to this story.

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