While the flooding in Northwest Georgia has caused some terrible losses, many in the community hope the flooding will help save one of our cherished city green spaces. The nearly 2,000 members of the Save Rome’s Central Park (SRCP) group are among those hoping that flooding in the city-owned Burwell Creek Natural Area between Ridge Ferry Park and the Rome Civic Center will help discourage developers from turning that part of our flood plain into a strip mall.
The current level of flooding highlights the massive development expense that would surely be required to fill in and divert flood waters from this low-lying property. The natural area, which is partially comprised of ecologically important wetlands, is connected to the Oostanaula River by Burwell Creek. Since it’s in the flood plain, the area now looks more like a lake than it’s usual tranquil wetlands and old-growth-forest trails. With the exception of the area immediately adjacent to Dogwood Drive and Vaughn Road, virtually all of the 80 acres is now under water. The potential development of the area was a major issue during the recent Rome City Commission election. In this election there was only one open seat in Ward Three and none in Ward One. There were only three “new” candidates. All five incumbents running this year had previously supported the developers plans. SRCP could not defeat more than two incumbents at the most and so chose to try to make a clear statement by simply depressing the vote for all incumbents. The group succeeded wonderfully. They elected two new commissioners by overwhelming majorities. They held each of the incumbents to much lower than normal percentages of the vote. One incumbent was actually ousted with only 41% of the vote. Another incumbent was given a clear vote of no confidence garnering only 43% of the vote, even though under Rome’s unusual plurality system that was sufficient for election. SRCP is hopeful that all our commissioners will recognize the strong statement of voters and actively seek to preserve these 80 acres as the keystone of a beautiful Cenral Park for the Rome of our future.
The group is encouraging positive development and redevelopment elsewhere to remove any perceived demand for development in this sensitive location.