STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. — Some big changes could be coming to Stone Mountain Park. The park’s CEO and the state group that oversees it met Monday and talked about the possible changes.
Some of the plans include moving some of the confederate monuments.
Leaders for the park told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne that the changes are about making the park comfortable for all.
Either way, the proposals are already generating controversy.
“I think you’re going to find that we’re not going to make anybody happy,” Stone Mountain Memorial Association CEO Bill Stephens said.
Stephens said COVID-19 and the park’s affiliation with the Confederacy have combined to cut Stone Mountain Park’s revenue from 2019 to 2020 by 56%.
“Any changes that are not in accordance with the park’s statutory mandates as a memorial to the Confederacy is not going to fare well with the citizens of Georgia,” said Tim Pilgrim, the Georgia division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
With the vendor who runs most attractions at the park already planning to leave, companies talking about taking over have all been clear.
“Unless we do something about the Confederacy issue, they’re not even going to bid on the project,” Stephens told Winne. “We have lost many opportunities and sponsorships.”
Stephens says he’s proposing to the association board changes including a consolidation of Confederate monuments and flags to 50 of the park’s 3,400 acres, including the flag display at the head of the park’s most popular trail.
“If somebody doesn’t want to see the Confederate flags, they’re not likely to see them here?” Winne asked Stephens.
“That’s correct,” Stephens said.
He told Winne that other proposed changes include renaming Confederate Hall perhaps to Heritage Hall, a new logo, renaming some generically named roadways for important Georgians, though not changing the names of streets named for Confederates, and a prominent display telling a complete history of the controversial carving – including Klan involvement.
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Speakers at Monday’s meeting included people from the NAACP.
“All of us live in the state of Georgia and do not reside in the state of denial,” said Atlanta NAACP President Richard Rose.
“We really should refuse to celebrate hate here in the state of Georgia,” said Teresa Hardy with NAACP DeKalb.
People from the Sons of Confederate Veterans also spoke.
“Stone Mountain Park by law is a memorial to the Confederacy,” said Martin O’Toole with Sons of Confederate Veterans.
“We need to act on the proposals that have been made and to go further,” said State Rep. Billy Mitchell.
Bona Allen said he’s a member of the Stone Mountain Action Coalition pushing for change.
“Our family’s blood was shed for the Confederacy,” Allen said. “The celebration of the Confederacy here at Stone Mountain Park is not our legacy. It is used to oppress people.”
Stephens told Winne that he’ll propose changing the name of one of the lakes which is currently named for a Klansman.
The Rev. Abraham Mosley said as newly named association board chair, he’s sensitive to both his responsibilities as an official and as a man of God.
“We got to come together as a people,” Mosely said.
Stephens said his proposed changes do not include changing the Confederate carving on the side of the mountain because that would require a change in a state law that gives strong protection to the carving.
He told Winne that the association has not taken a position on changing state law.
Cox Media Group