Inmate “recreation” ended decades ago at the Atlanta Prison Farm. Now, behind a ring of misleading trash piles lies a beautifully abandoned 400-acre tree, pond, stream and meadow wonderland.
The whole, whole south Atlanta property might have once been 10 times bigger, suggested Scott Petersen on a clear Sunday morning, as he started a tour of the place for 20 or so people. Petersen told everyone to tell more friends about the farm; he’s an activist who’s been working for more than a decade to get the place turned into a park.
It could be the biggest in Atlanta — by contrast, Grant Park is 131.5 acres.
Around the turn of the 20th century, the Atlanta Prison Farm, aka the United States Government Honor Farm, opened up to federal inmates, some of whom were Native Americans convicted of federal crimes such as practicing native religion or being caught off the reservation.
Later, in the 50s and 60s, the farm was Atlanta’s answer to homelessness, said Petersen. Various vagrancy citations resulted in a two- or three-month visit to the farm.
Pecan and black walnut trees indicate the hand of the farmer. There are allegedly blueberries too. Indeed, the area is not inhabited by fools: this time of year and I could hardly find a single pecan on the ground. A park neighbor said he sees gleaners streaming out with buckets full of goodies.
Get your meat fix too … if the deer about aren’t too scrawny? Petersen showed us a not-decrepit deer stand. Though only two shotgun casings on the whole two-hour meander. Hmmm…
It’s got tree-filled deep spots, two ponds, and high grassy meadows. And that’s only a short inspection of this rolling, varied land.
In the cool low ground along
Internment Intrenchment Creek, for some reason, there is no privet yet. It is a meadow shaded by a dappling of trees. It overlooks said creek. The creek starts, said Petersen, under a manhole in Grant Park. And when the city’s sewers overflow, this is where some of them run.
And yet, it is spectacular. And of course it needs work, besides ending the occasional e-coli floods. There’s the old building full of asbestos. And who knows what all may have been dumped here over the years?
Tracts of the property were bitten off over the years: the landfill and police training academy along Key Road, even the land all the way over to GBI headquarters on Panthersville Road.
The next farm tour is Nov. 5. Visit Old Atlanta Prison Farm’s Facebook page for deets.