Advocates say DeKalb is divesting in community by allowing swap at Intrenchment Creek Park 

South River Watershed Alliance and South River Forest Coalition called a press conference on July 20 to ask for Intrenchment Creek Park to be reopened to the public. Photo courtesy of Defend the Atlanta Forest.

DeKalb County, GA — South DeKalb County residents were blocked from accessing a local park when concrete barriers and no trespassing sign were found at a public entrance to Intrenchment Creek Park on Saturday, July 16. 

Intrenchment Creek Park is 163 acres of woods, biking paths and hiking trails in DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson’s district. A 40-acre parcel of the park, including access at the trailhead, is the subject of a 2021 controversial land swap between DeKalb County and Blackhall Studios.  

A group blamed Blackhall Studios after the DeKalb County Police Department admitted a private request was made to put up the blockade and signage. Blackhall Studios has not made a statement yet. 

It’s one more bump in the road for social justice groups who are fighting city and county government to “stay invested in the community.” 

On Wednesday, July 20, South River Watershed Alliance and South River Forest Coalition called a press conference, asking for the park to be reopened to the public. 

“The history of disinvestment and the communities around the South River and Intrenchment Creek … speaks for itself. From the city of Atlanta and DeKalb County and all stops in between, what’s going on here Is just a present day manifestation of what’s been going on for decades,” said Dr. Jacqueline Echols of South River Watershed Alliance. 

Echols said DeKalb County is using Intrenchment Creek Park the way Atlanta is using the prison farm property – to make land deals seem like they’re for the betterment of the community. 

“That’s just the way this whole disinvestment issue keeps a stranglehold on these communities,” said Echols. 

Echols says blocking access to the park is Blackhall’s response to her lawsuit. 

“We will take the next action to ensure that we are successful in court, and hopefully ensure that the park reopens as soon as possible,” said Echols. “Until the community steps up, South River Watershed Alliance is doing all that it can to push this issue and stop DeKalb County with our consent decree lawsuit.” 

A lawsuit was filed by South River Watershed Alliance, South River Forest Coalition and several individuals – among them Echols, Margaret Spalding, Allen Doyle, Joe Peery and Joel Finegold –  against DeKalb County and Blackhall Real Estate, one of the companies holding the property on which the studio was built. 

The plaintiffs are asking a judge to order that the land swap was outside the county’s legal authority, and to declare the transfer void. The lawsuit argues the transfers could not have occurred without a public referendum. The plaintiffs also want a judge to order the county to hold and maintain Intrenchment Creek Park for the public’s use and benefit and issue injunctions prohibiting the land swap and development of the park.

To read a copy of the complaint, click here.

The park is supposed to remain open to the public until the lawsuit brought by South River Forest Coalition and South River Watershed Alliance is settled. 

Margaret Spalding, executive director of South River Watershed Alliance, said Blackhall was likely responsible for recent land disturbance in Intrenchment Creek Park several weeks ago in the forest. 

Echols said community members have to want more.  

“None of this would happen without the complicity of DeKalb County and the city of Atlanta. That’s where the blame lies and that’s where the solution lies,” said Echols. 

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