ROSWELL, Ga. — Dozens of greenshirts descended on Roswell City Hall March 11 with one goal: save Big Creek Park.
On the City Council agenda was a resolution, brought by Councilman Marcelo Zapata, to preserve and maintain Big Creek Park, and the item took up the majority of the council meeting. It was in part a response to the tennis center controversy last August that was nixed three days after the proposed complex was announced, garnering intense pushback from residents. One of the major concerns brought up multiple times by residents was preservation of the tree canopy in Big Creek Park as well as the mountain bike and walking trails.
Nearly two months after the tennis center proposal was shot down, the city held a town hall for residents to speak with local officials on the matter.
The resolution drafted by Zapata outlines two main goals: to preserve and maintain Big Creek Park in its current state and bring a new master plan to the public for comment before any alterations to the park or trails are approved. Residents wore green shirts in support of the resolution.
This is a formal commitment to the park and recognizes how much the community treasures it, Zapata said.
Councilman Mike Palermo echoed Zapata, saying the city has a black eye from the tennis center controversy, and it’s a reasonable resolution to pass in light of that history.
Several council members and Mayor Lori Henry, however, said that they could not support the resolution because it did not pass through proper channels.
Usually, a resolution like the one proposed would first be vetted by the city’s Recreation Commission, a citizen group that oversees the parks, before it is brought before the City Council.
Henry added that she had asked Zapata several days before to bring the matter before the Recreation Commission first, but he refused.
Councilman Sean Groer, who seconded a motion to defer the resolution, said that his decision is not about the resolution at all — which he said he would have supported if it had come from the Recreation Commission — but about respecting the city’s process. The resolution is just not ready yet, he said.
Several members of the public appeared before the council to say they felt their trust in city officials had been betrayed because of how the tennis center controversy was handled, and they urged the City Council to adopt the resolution as a show of good faith.
Groer pointed out that the City Council was being asked to break a process to regain trust.
“The Recreation Commission and the City Council needs to be aligned for a resolution like this to have any weight at all,” Groer said. “If we pass this tonight, all it would do is create a divide between council and the Rec Commission because we didn’t ask for their input before passing a resolution.”
The City Council voted 4-2 to defer the resolution. Zapata and Palermo were opposed.