The city of Stonecrest has begun to take control of the area’s parks, but some residents are concerned DeKalb County’s newest city hasn’t been transparent enough along the way.
When Stonecrest was incorporated in 2017, its charter stated the city must acquire and manage the parks instead of the county. The City Council voted Monday night to pay DeKalb County $42,000 for nine parks and one aquatic center totaling 42 acres. The city has not yet taken over Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve, which also lies in Stonecrest city limits.
One of the largest parks in Stonecrest is the Browns Mill Recreation Center, where the county has hosted a summer camp for about 100 children every summer. Stonecrest is also planning to take over that camp, and voted to pay $83,583 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta to run it this summer.
But some residents said the city failed to seek enough public input before choosing the Boys and Girls Clubs to operate camps at the center.
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“There was no attempt to do any outreach” or get the parents’ input, said resident Dele Lowman Smith, the president of the Stonecrest Citizens’ Coalition.
Mayor Jason Lary said several residents sat on the committee that chose the Boys and Girls Clubs.
“We had community input, community support,” he said in an interview, adding that the city is “proud to take over the parks as per our charter, because it adds the quality of life that we’re looking for.”
The Boys and Girls Clubs will provide similar summer camp programming to what the county offered in prior years, including STEM components and physical activities, city spokesman Adrion Bell said. It will cost between $175 and $225 for the eight-week camp.
Smith clarified that she has no major issues with the Boys and Girls Clubs, but “we wanted to see more responsibly taken for needing to engage citizens.”
Smith is concerned that there is also a new registration fee for the camp, which costs $65, though it is waived for families with AmeriGroup Insurance. Smith also hopes the current park employees will remain employed elsewhere by the county after Stonecrest starts running them.
Moving forward, however, Smith is satisfied that Sean DePalma, the city’s parks and recreation director, agreed to meet with families and get their input as Stonecrest begins overseeing the parks and the Browns Mill summer camp.
The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners must vote on the sale of the parks before it becomes official. Other DeKalb cities like Tucker and Dunwoody took control of their parks from the county after incorporating.
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