breaking news

Amid frigid temps, Gov. Deal issues emergency declaration

Henry County: Nash Farm Park approves makeover plan months after controversy


The Henry County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday adopted a master plan for Nash Farm Park — a local flash-point in the debate over Confederate iconography — that officials hope will reinvent the greenspace as a regional destination.

The plan calls for adding walking paths, an heirloom garden, a playground and an amphitheater that could accommodate thousands. A Civil War battlefield would be preserved in the plan.

“This is the initial first step,” Henry County Manager Cheri Hobson-Matthews told the board, adding that officials need to prioritize which projects to work on first. “This won’t happen tomorrow.”

The approval comes almost seven months after Nash Farm Park became mired in the national movement to remove Confederate symbols from public spaces.

Dozens of Henry residents — both supporters and opponents of the symbols — descended on the commission’s June meeting last year to react to the closing of the park’s museum.

Owners of the memorabilia pulled their items from the facility after Henry Commissioner Dee Clemmons asked the museum to take down Confederate flags flying on the property. Clemmons also requested that Confederate flags in the facility not be visible from outside the building. The museum was shuttered shortly after.

The museum’s closing drew both angry and celebratory responses and put a spotlight on the changing demographics of a once mostly white county that is now an almost even split between white residents and minorities.

“The words ‘stand up against hate’ have been a false battle cry for those who have refused to sit down with those of us who hold a different insight into a complex and difficult time in American history,” Anthony Pilgrim, a Henry County resident and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said at last year’s commission meeting.

Sarah Billups, a Henry County NAACP officer, told audience members at that meeting, “When you fly the Confederate flag at your home, that’s your business. Do not force me to operate under the shadow of that flag.”

Wednesday’s discussion was far more civil, with no comments from the audience and just a hint of tension among the board members.

Commissioner Blake Prince said last year’s controversy is in part responsible for the adoption of the plan. The plan the board approved Wednesday was actually commissioned in 2008 and sent to the board a year later. But the commissioners never acted on it.

“When all this came up about Nash Farms, I looked back through and found this master plan,” said Prince, who has been trying to get it on the board’s agenda for six months. “This is what (the board in 2008) bought it for. This is what they intended it to be.”

Not everyone was sold on the plan, however. Commissioner Johnny Wilson, the sole no vote on its approval, questioned the wisdom of developing a property the county does not yet own outright. Henry bought the farm in 2008 for $8 million to save it from being developed as housing. The county has been paying down debt on the property, but still owes $2.5 million.

“We still owe a great deal of money on the property itself,” he said. “We need to figure out a plan to pay for it … then we can decide what we’re going to put on it.”

Clemmons, who once told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she envisioned the park becoming a “Central Park of the South,” shot back that her district alone has been paying the debt through impact fees and that she would be happy to share the burden with her fellow commissioners if that would help.

“There have been no improvements on this park,” she said. “Let’s put a master plan out there so there is something to enjoy.”

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

The AJC's Leon Stafford keeps you updated on the latest happenings around metro Atlanta’s Southside area. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in local politics. Subscribe to myAJC.com.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Fulton County government closed Wednesday for inclement weather
Fulton County government closed Wednesday for inclement weather

All Fulton County government offices will be closed Wednesday, due to the potential for ice and snow. All courts in the Atlanta Judicial Circuit will also be closed, and jurors should not report. For updated information about closings, see www.fultoncountyga.gov or @FultonInfo on Facebook and Twitter.
Georgia man who set ex-girlfriend on fire sentenced to life in prison
Georgia man who set ex-girlfriend on fire sentenced to life in prison

A Georgia man who poured gasoline on his ex-girlfriend and set her on fire was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility for parole, according to the Clayton County District Attorney’s office.  Mervin Woodard, 40, was found guilty of multiple felonies in the 2016 crime, which left Melita Curtis in a coma for two weeks. Curtis was...
Who is White House physician Ronny L. Jackson?
Who is White House physician Ronny L. Jackson?

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson became physician to the president in 2013, when he was appointed by President Barack Obama. It’s a position that has been around since George Washington became president, but it did not become official until Congress created the title in 1928.  Jackson is the 18th person to hold the position, which is...
White House physician releases official report with details of president’s exam
White House physician releases official report with details of president’s exam

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, the physician to the president, released the particulars of President Donald Trump’s physical exam in an official report Tuesday. It was Trump’s first periodical physical as president and was conducted last Friday at the Walter Reed Army National Military Medical Center. The results were released with...
Atlanta gets third round of winter, snow and freezing temperatures
Atlanta gets third round of winter, snow and freezing temperatures

Long before the first drop or snowflake fell, metro Atlanta was going through the familiar motions: Road crews were treating roads, schools cancelled evening activities and commuters rushed to get off the road early. Then, it was time to wait. By Tuesday’s evening rush hour, what was expected to be Georgia’s third wintry storm since December...
More Stories