Groups ask court to stop ‘destruction’ near ‘cop city’ site

What was a concrete walking trail near the Intrenchment Creek Park South River Trailhead in DeKalb County.



What was a concrete walking trail near the Intrenchment Creek Park South River Trailhead in DeKalb County.

Environmental advocates have asked a judge to issue an injunction preventing “further destruction” of parkland that a movie studio founder obtained in a controversial property swap with DeKalb County.

The south DeKalb property in question is — or was — home to Intrenchment Creek Park’s South River Trailhead and has been a secondary target for activists trying to stop construction of Atlanta’s new public safety training center, which is slated for a nearby expanse of forest.

The GBI, Atlanta and DeKalb police and other agencies last week escalated their attempts to thwart those opposition efforts, making several arrests on both the training center site and the land swap property. At least six people were charged with domestic terrorism, felony charges that could carry sentences of up to 35 years in prison.

Since then, concrete paths, a gazebo and other structures on the land swap property currently owned by Ryan Millsap and Blackhall Real Estate Phase II have been dug up or otherwise destroyed. Photos of the site show limbs and other brush stacked up in piles.

The actions are presumably aimed in part at stopping activists from re-commandeering the property in the future.

But the South River Watershed Alliance, the South River Forest Coalition and other parties who brought a still-pending lawsuit challenging the legality of the land swap that put Millsap in charge of the property are asking a judge to stop any further action.

The emergency motion filed late Thursday asks Superior Court Judge Stacey K. Hydrick to issue a temporary restraining order, arguing that Millsap “has and continues to impede access to public park land and trails as well as destroy public park land, trails, and other amenities, without authority or right to do so.”

The land swap was finalized before the advocacy groups brought their lawsuit challenging the transaction. Blackhall is the titled owner of the property.

Part of the real estate agreement between Blackhall and the county says that any removal of public amenities on the original Intrenchment Creek Park property would take place only as improvements are made to the 53 nearby acres that DeKalb received in the transaction. But there has never been a court-ordered injunction stopping construction or other development on the land swap property.

That would change if the advocacy groups’ new request is granted.

It was not immediately clear when the motion might be heard or ruled upon.

The land swap and training center properties, meanwhile, appear to have otherwise remained quiet since authorities swept through on Dec. 14.

GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said “police have not detected any issues connected to criminal activity at the site since last week’s operation,” but declined to offer further details.

The activists charged with domestic terrorism were scheduled for bond hearings in DeKalb Superior Court on Tuesday morning, online records say.

The GBI originally announced that five people — Francis Carroll, Nicholas Olson, Serena Hertel, Leonardo Voiselle, and Arieon Robinson — were facing the serious charges for alleged actions that ranged from throwing rocks at police cars to refusing to come out of a treehouse on the training center site, as well as their general affiliation with the “Defend the Atlanta Forest” movement.

Records later revealed that a sixth person, Ariel Ebaugh, had also been charged with domestic terrorism and other offenses.

Warrants obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution say the Stockbridge resident is accused of “walking toward [police officers] that were in plain view [while] armed with a rifle and positioning her body in a tactical manner that immediately placed the officers at scene in fear of receiving a violent injury.”