UPDATE: At the end of the post.
Piedmont Park, home to a handful of gay sports groups and the Atlanta Pride Festival, is wilting until Georgia’s lingering drought. Now, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the city is studying measures to protect the 185-acre park. That could mean dropping its four signature events, including Pride, and limiting access to the athletic fields for recreational sports. Cleats are already out.
The drought hurts the park twice. Heavy traffic damages the grass and the city’s watering ban limits what park caretakers can do to help regenerate the turf. A task force within the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department is investigating options to limit damage to the park, according to the AJC.
Limiting access to the park’s athletic fields or an outright ban on recreational sports would impact at least three gay sports organizations that practice, play games or host tournaments there. The National Flag Football League of Atlanta plays its season inside the park, while teams from the Hotlanta Softball League practice there and the Hotlanta Soccer Association hosts its Hotlanta Soccer Classic over Memorial Day Weekend.
Dianne Harnell Cohen, commissioner of the parks department, told the newspaper the city may rotate athletic fields, while Piedmont Park Conservancy president and CEO Debbie McCown says measures may go further than that. “We may not have the kind of intense league play for awhile,” she says.
UPDATE: Southern Voice takes a look at the impact on Pride of possible changes to the park, including festival organizers considering moving the event indoors. That’s an idea I’ve advocated for a few years. Putting the festival inside the Georgia World Congress Center or AmericasMart would remove weather as a factor, provide a cool climate during the scorching summer and give plenty of space — and restrooms. It also would provide organizers a way to count attendees so the public would know for sure how many people attend.