ATLANTA - Roswell leaders, who thought they had an ace on their hands when they proposed construction of the largest tennis facility in the country in a popular park are getting a volley back from neighbors who don’t want it there.
Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik first broke news of the proposal Thursday morning.
Car dealership owner Vernon Krause brought the idea to city leaders.
“It started out an idea for a small facility that would serve underprivileged and special needs children, and it grew after a meeting with the city of Roswell,” Krause told Petchenik.
He said the center will be named after his daughter, Angela, an avid tennis player who died from a rare form of cancer a few years ago.
“She was just a very special child,” he said. “My wife and our remaining children wanted to do something special in her memory and to keep her legacy alive.”
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Mayor Lori Henry told Petchenik the city would lease 60 acres of Big Creek Park to Krause, who would pay for the building and hire management for the facility.
“Big Creek was never meant to be a passive park. However, we just hadn’t had the resources to build on it. So, now we do,” she said. “The entire facility will be available to Roswell residents at the rates we charge for other facilities in town. So, it’s a win-win for Roswell.”
After the announcement, Petchenik began hearing from park neighbors off Old Alabama Road and learned of a petition to stop the city from moving forward at Big Creek.
As of Friday afternoon, more than 6,000 people had signed it.
“We appreciate the fact this family wants to honor their daughter. It’s admirable. Very much so,” said
Shawn Brunner, owner of Bike Fresh, a mountain bike repair and sales shop near the park. “But we would implore them to find another place to put it.”
Mark McCabe, who heads a group called Friends of Big Creek Park, told Petchenik he supports the project, just not the chosen locale.
“There are other locations that are vacant right now in East Roswell that would be a good location for it.
Just like the abandoned Super Target,” he said. “Leave the park alone so people can enjoy it the way it was meant to be, as far as we’re concerned.”
Ryan Kramer, a member of a mountain biking group called RAMBO that has maintained trails at the park for several years, told Petchenik he’s not thrilled about seeing trees clear cut for this kind of project.
“We have residents from kids to adults who come to enjoy the trails here at the park and it gives us an opportunity to escape the city life,” he said.
Roswell’s city council will meet Monday to consider a memorandum of understanding with the Krause Family Foundation for the project.
Some are questioning the timing of the announcement, just days before the meeting.
“I think it’s awful. I think it’s a disservice to the community around us,” said Brenda Golden, who lives in a nearby subdivision. “It feels like it’s behind the scenes they’ve done this and I’m thankful for anyone who has discovered the truth about this.”
A city spokesperson sent Petchenik the following statement Friday afternoon:
"This proposed project is in the beginning stages. We informed the public on Thursday morning, Aug. 9 that the proposal would be included on the Monday, Aug. 13 Mayor and Council meeting agenda through press releases to the media and posting the information on our social media pages. The city’s website includes detailed information concerning the proposed project, and the city has heard from many citizens through email and on social media concerning it. We welcome residents to attend the meeting on Monday night if they would like speak in person with the Mayor and Council about this proposal."
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