DeKalb closes Intrenchment Creek area due to 'hidden traps'

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond says there are hidden traps at Intrenchment Creek Park. On Friday, he issued an executive order closing the area off to the public. (Chamian Cruz/WABE)

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond issued an executive order Friday closing Intrenchment Creek Park due to a threat to public safety.

He said at a press conference at Maloof Auditorium that law enforcement has found hidden traps and other devices that could injure adults, children and pets wandering the park during the warmer months.

“Because our parks and recreation employees have been unable to safely inspect and maintain this public property, we don’t know for certain if there might be other dangerous contraptions and traps hidden,” Thurmond said.

“When we sent out employees, they were attacked with rocks and other objects,” he continued. “They were forced to flee for their own safety and consequently, we could not send employees into that location. That’s been within the last 12 months.”

The park, spanning approximately 140 acres, is where Atlanta’s controversial police and firefighter center is set to be built and protestors have clashed with police for over a year.

The executive order also comes after dozens of protestors have been arrested and charged with domestic terrorism and the fatal shooting of an environmental activist during a clearing operation at the site.

Since the shooting, the movement to stop the $90 million public safety training center that protestors derisively refer to as “Cop City” has gained national and international attention.

Thurmond said the executive order will remain in place until further notice, but would not comment on whether law enforcement will be present at the site or how it will be enforced. 

“Let me be clear,” Thurmond said. “If we encounter individuals who are unaware of the closure, of course, we will inform them and ask them to leave immediately… I am confident that law-abiding citizens will do the right thing [and] support this government so that we can once again enjoy the beauty of Intrenchment Creek Park.”

According to the executive order, any unauthorized persons who enter the property could face charges including criminal trespass. Vehicles parked at the site will be towed and impounded, with the owner facing possible charges. Anyone caught removing or defacing signs posted on the property will be subject to prosecution.

In January, Dekalb County approved a land disturbance permit that would allow construction of the proposed center to begin. But, there’s still ongoing litigation over a swap of land adjacent to the proposed center between DeKalb County and former Blackhall Studios CEO Ryan Millsap.

According to a judge’s order, Intrenchment Creek Park is supposed to remain open to the public until the lawsuit brought by South River Forest Coalition and South River Watershed Alliance is settled.

Thurmond also declined to comment on how that could impact the executive order but said he doesn’t expect there to be any legal challenges.

“My county attorney is standing over there,” Thurmond said. “Viviane Ernstes has taught me very well not to comment on ongoing litigation.”