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Blackhall Studios Proposes Ecologically Unsound Land Swap of Public Greenspace for Clear-Cut Property

By Margaret Spalding Brady and Jordan Ososki

Blackhall would clear cut and develop on 55 acres of heavily forested public greenspace known as Intrenchment Creek Park and give Dekalb County a mostly clear-cut property in return.

Blackhall Studios has put forth an alarming land swap proposal that threatens not just Intrenchment Creek Park, but all public greenspace in the county. The precedent set by this swap is a county-wide threat. Although county officials say they are undecided regarding the proposal, a letter from CEO Michael Thurmond’s office to the President of The Arthur Blank Foundation seeks support for the swap, calling it a “win-win.”

Blackhall owns 60 acres of mostly clear-cut land along Bouldercrest Road that they have allowed to be a trash dump for tires, rubble, and broken equipment. Blackhall says this tire-filled property could replace the 55 acres of Intrenchment Creek Park they would develop on.

Because Intrenchment Creek Park is public greenspace, its purpose is to protect the creek from development. Blackhall’s plan to clear-cut and develop what is now heavily forested land would destroy a critical ecological resource.

The land proposed for the swap was originally donated to DeKalb County by the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation to be used as public greenspace. Residents representing many of the surrounding neighborhoods are in opposition to trading away the park and are demanding transparency and fair representation in the decision.

A group of residents calling themselves the Bouldercrest-South River Forest Community see a bigger opportunity: a gateway community vision for the area that includes environmental stewardship and economic development for sustainable, equitable outcomes. The Nature Conservancy has a similar vision for the area which they are calling the South River Forest. If realized, the South River Forest Park would become the largest protected public greenspace inside 285 and a regional hub for eco-tourism.

Blackhall has included a community support portion in the proposal, but this aspect of the deal essentially pits high value greenspace against economic development and job training. It should not be an either-or scenario for the people of Dekalb. They should not have to choose or trade away what is supposed to be protected.

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