Stone Mountain city officials frustrated by parkgoers filing into village

City of Stone Mountain officials are calling on Stone Mountain Park to shut down some of its entrances. There are worries that parkgoers are crowding city streets during the coronavirus pandemic.

City of Stone Mountain officials are calling on Stone Mountain Park to shut down some of its entrances over worries that parkgoers are crowding city streets during the coronavirus pandemic.

“A lot of our residents are in an uproar,” said ChaQuias Thornton, the Stone Mountain city manager.

Thornton, who manages the day-to-day operations of the small DeKalb County city, said many people have parked in the city, which is located next to the park, and walked to the mountain to avoid paying a parking fee.

Normally, that is a fairly common practice, but Thornton said residents are worried about people coming into the city while the state has enacted social distancing mandates.

The city has called on the park to close two pedestrian entrances within the city limits that link the village with the park — one on East Mountain Street, and another on Robert E. Lee Boulevard that connects to 2nd Street.

John Bankhead, a spokesman for the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, said the park is “aware of the issue” but has no plans to close any of the entrances.

The association, a state authority that manages the park, is enforcing social distancing inside the park, Bankhead said. Gov. Brian Kemp's executive order earlier this month allows parks in the state to remain open. The Stone Mountain Park attractions are closed due to the coronavirus, though the trails remain open.

Main Street in downtown Stone Mountain, photographed last May. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Main Street in downtown Stone Mountain, photographed last May. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Thornton said the city tried to keep parkgoers from parking in the city by closing two public parking lots. But that led drivers to park on residential streets, further worrying residents, she said. That’s causing more work for police officers and the public works department.

“It's a burden,” the city manager said. Neighbors are “bearing the brunt of that, and they're upset.”

She said she has reached out to the state Department of Public Safety, which offered to help the city. Officials are also considering reopening the public parking lots to relieve the strain on residential streets.

“As long as the sun is shining, or there is no rain, we’re having to experience this issue,” Thornton said. Sunday’s showers were a relief for the city manager. “Maybe I can get some rest today.”

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