Last week I got myself into what Congressman John Lewis might call “good trouble.” I was detained at Stone Mountain Park’s west gate for morally and philosophically objecting to permanently sticking the Stone Mountain Park annual pass to my car window (see the videos below), and my sticker was revoked, and I was refunded $40 (it was either take the $40 or leave with neither pass or refund). Activism so often springs from people discovering something wrong or egregious that is being done in their names, so I urge everyone with an annual pass to this park to get a refund like I did, because Stone Mountain Park and its governing entities, the State of Georgia, SMMA and Herschend Family Entertainment, do no disclose anywhere (not online or on the pass) to their customers that the monies from these annual passes and park entry fees go toward directly supporting and maintaining the Confederate memorials at the park. The pass of mine that was confiscated was actually gifted to me, as my stance is to not pay the park for parking until it provides another fair option that doesn't involve supporting the Confederacy, so I put the $40 to charitable use. Most consumers, particularly local ones from the majority black and immigrant communities, innocently purchase annual passes to gain access to walk and exercise on the physical mountain itself or the surrounding trails, and are grossly unaware of that their purchase is basically funding the Confederacy. Parkgoers believe they are just going to the park to enjoy it and its facilities and would no doubt be greatly surprised by and very much so against this hidden funding if they knew about it. The fine print on the back of the sticker (see image), which one can only read with a magnifying glass, does not even disclose where the money for the passes will go, but rather, it only grants the park powers to do what they want “to manage” your pass. My guess is that most people affix the sticker on without even reading the back, if only because the font is so microscopic. The park police sergeant called over to talk to me about my objection referred to my purchase of the sticker as a contract, and I described as best I could that I believe the transaction is a type of fraud.
"History will have to record the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words and other violent actions of the bad people but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only the words and acts of the children of darkness but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.” —Martin Luther King, Jr., Atlanta, 1965
Let’s talk more about this! Besides the not so minor detail of not informing customers that their annual parking passes and entry fees support Confederate monuments, Stone Mountain Park’s system for issuing park passes is outdated and hugely unfair to consumers on many other levels, and the park and its governors only seem to care about what is convenient for them and display no trust in its customers and no regard for their property and privacy. The number one reason the park makes physically sticking the pass in one’s window a priority? Because you might share your pass with someone else (read: you will cheat the park), so signs at the gate read “Annual Park Stickers Are Valid Only If They Are Adhered to Your Windshield.”
Instead of imagining the best of its customers, the entire point-of-sale at the gate is predicated on bad faith in the purchaser. They also claim that the stickers in the windows make moving cars into the park more convenient for them and everyone, but there is a flaw to such a claim, in that numerous cars pull up to the gate every day, at uneven intervals, to stop and pay the daily parking fee. How about have two lines, one for annual pass holders and one for daily parking? How about an option to safely park inside the park while opting out of one’s money being allocated for maintaining the Confederacy (or into, for the pro-Confederate demographic they're attracting)? Is this a Memoriy’all or a MemoriALL? I should have the right to stick or not stick something on my car, especially where privacy and safety are concerned.
Mount Rushmore in South Dakota has a third party parking system that Stone Mountain Park would be wise to consider. After all, Mount Rushmore and Stone Mountain share sculptor Gutzon Borglum in common, and the carving of Rushmore was as much an affront to the Lakota Sioux as the carving of Stone Mountain, with its Confederate flags and monuments, to so many other Americans. Here is how parking works at Mount Rushmore: “The parking facility is operated under a concession contract between the National Park Service and the Mount Rushmore Society. No federal funding was used to construct the parking facility. A parking fee has been authorized to offset the costs associated with the construction, operation and maintenance of the parking facility. A parking permit entitles a non-commercial vehicle unlimited entry to the memorial for the calendar year.” In essence these visitors parking at Mount Rushmore pay to maintain the parking facility, NOT the memorial, unless they wish to, in which case they can join the Mount Rushmore Society. Sounds familiar, since the Stone Mountain Memorial Association is basically akin to the Mount Rushmore Society, with the exception that Stone Mountain Park is classified as a state park (albeit one that acts more like a privately operated one) and not afforded the protections of a national park.
There is no reason the park should not be able to issue an annual pass that fits inside of one’s wallet, similar to that issued by the National Park System, which is valid with a photo ID. After all, Stone Mountain Park already issues such plastic cards to its Mountain Members that buy into an “attractions plan.” Herschend Family Entertainment runs the attractions. The Georgia State Parks system issues hangtags for cars’ mirrors, and this should be done for day parking at Stone Mountain. As well, the outdated sticker system discriminates against people with no car, more than one car, very real privacy concerns, and a multitude of special cases. What if a father has the kids one day and wants to take them to the park, but the sticker is on mom’s car? Too bad. They still have to take mom’s car with the pass stuck to its windshield. What if someone without a car has a pass and wants to carpool with friends or a group to exercise at the park? Or, family comes into town but can’t all fit into the vehicle with the sticker in the window and you need a rental car? Too bad.
Actually, worse than any of the above examples is that of a woman who doesn’t want her ex-husband, or anyone for that matter, to know where she can be found on a regular basis, because he is stalking her, so she does not want to display the sticker in her window permanently to advertise that she goes to this park regularly. I know a lot of women that come to this park to jog and hike alone, and certainly many of us take our safety for granted. Obviously, I write about this mountain here, so it’s clear I can probably be found there on any given day, but when I am not there, I absolutely DO NOT want to be an extension of the park's brand by having that sticker on my window. For one, my car is my property, and it’s my personal choice to place any stickers of any kind on it or not, and this Stone Mountain Park pass practically screams my support for the park and indicates to any informed consumer that I may as well have given money to The Lost Cause. I know many people that outright refuse to even go to the park at all because of the Klan's reign there from 1915-1958. Once decent concession would be to not charge people to support Confederate monuments if they do not want to and all they want to do is park.
Worst yet, though, is that the Confederate symbols at Stone Mountain Park are dangerous because they continue to serve as a beacon of hate for white supremacists that, now more regularly than ever, descend upon the mountain, as recently as April 23, when they waved Confederate flags and banners that proclaimed “Diversity=White Genocide.”
Using its classification as a state park, the park shielded itself from accountability by saying that they had no right but to allow hatemongers to gather there. Never mind that the white power group presented a danger to others and were engaged in hate speech and interfered with others’ pursuits of happiness and that they riled up counter protestors. The park did close the attractions at the last minute, likely most concerned for their liability, but other visitors to the park that day were still painfully caught off guard. I can only imagine how much it cost taxpayers for the unbelievable law enforcement presence that day. Now ask me why I do not want this sticker, which pays for the upkeep of such Confederate memorials, permanently affixed to my car’s windshield — and ask me again as we approach the one-year anniversary of the atrocities perpetrated by Dylann Roof at Mother Emanuel in South Carolina, on the evening of June 17, 2015. Roof visited Confederate memorials not at all unlike Stone Mountain Park to stoke his white supremacist beliefs in the days and hours before murdering nine innocent black Americans. This year, a resolution has been put forth in Charleston to declare June 17th "Mother Emanuel Day.”
I was proud to wear my I VOTED sticker earlier this week, and I am proud to display the stickers of brands, companies, and geographical locations for which I'm proud to support--maybe not on my car but on my backpack or water bottle. For the record, and I have said this before, I celebrate the natural wonder of the rock, Stone Mountain itself, which is being held hostage in a theme park, but I am not proud of a theme park that irresponsibly presents “history” and only pretends to be a state park for ALL and Georgia’s #1 attraction -- with millions of visitors a year, many from all over the world.
Stone Mountain Park must wake up to the very real dangers, ideological and otherwise, posed by its Confederate monuments and symbols, and they have got to stop taking money from unknowing customers who are opposed to supporting their maintenance (whatever that entails), and thereby forcing them to support the Confederacy, which is nothing short of fraud, when all the people think they are doing is going to the park. Until such time that their policy changes and another parking option is made available to accommodate any parkgoers wishing to visit this state park without being subjected to hidden funding, I do recommend that everyone seek immediate refund for their annual passes and never pay to go there. Someone out there will wrongly allege that I do not support veterans. If it bears saying, I have family members that fought on both sides of the Civil War, such as my 3rd great grandfather, Mark King, who fought for the Union out of West Virginia. The war has been over a long time, and I just want to please hike without continuing to pay for it.