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Leading Environmental and Neighborhood Advocate Passes

Photo by Henry Bryant Scott Petersen

By Henry Bryant

Scott Pickrel Petersen, of the SAND neighborhood, was a Defend the Forest proponent decades before it was in the news. He was a visionary who always promoted big ideas to improve the city and his neighborhood. He moved to Ormewood Park in the 1980’s, living on Essie Street, and became the president of the SAND Neighborhood Association shortly after his arrival. He died of natural causes November 6, 2022, while visiting Mexico. It took a while for his remains to return to Atlanta, but on June 17, 2023, he was laid to rest in historic Sylvester Cemetery, not far from the Old Atlanta Prison Farm.

Many remember Scott for his tours of the Prison Farm which introduced visitors to the history of our area. He always envisioned the Prison Farm as a natural green space for the good of the city. Even before he discovered the Prison Farm and South River Forest, he discovered the South River and its tributary, Entrenchment Creek. Scott campaigned tirelessly to clean up the waterways, going so far as to propose eco-friendly water treatment plans that included ponds with marsh grasses to clean the water before it re-entered the wild environment. He wrote many articles for this paper and other news media about that, and other “crazy” ideas, like walled gardens in front yards along Moreland Avenue to make the residences quieter, safer, and more livable. A nurse by profession, he was sensitive to the negative health aspects of polluted water and air.

He also championed neighborhood policing by working to establish one of the city’s first security patrols using off duty police to fight crime. Scott also “adopted” several old cemeteries to revitalize them for burials as well as green space. Sylvester Cemetery in East Atlanta, one of the oldest cemeteries in DeKalb County, was one of those he contributed to, and volunteered for, and which became his final resting place. He cut a dashing figure at neighborhood festivals and community meetings with his walking stick and Panama hat, talking to people about his causes.

If you ever went on one of Scott’s tours, you would know that he asked visitors to open their eyes and look at the land, feel it, touch it, and tread its paths with attention and respect. Scott was not exactly touchy feely, though. His friends in the neighborhood seemed to agree that he was prickly and would fight hard for his cause. He is survived by his son, who works in computer coding in the New York City area.

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