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Music Midtown grows despite concerns for Piedmont Park | News

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Music Midtown grows despite concerns for Piedmont Park

ATLANTA -- Music Midtown is expected to draw 170,000 people to two different parts of Piedmont Park. One of them is called "The Meadow," which is big and flat and is designed to hold large crowds.

The other is called Oak Hill, which has lots of trees and brush and isn't as crowd friendly.

Last year, Oak Hill got clobbered by the two day rain-soaked festival. One month after Music Midtown ended, public records show, Oak Hill was still rife with "thick mud," "deep foot prints" and "tree compaction," according to a memo written by the city's director of parks. Addressed to Music Midtown's promoter, Peter Conlon, Doug Voss wrote "I can not see how we can put (a) stage back on Oak Hill next year… with the property left in this condition."

But despite that, Music Midtown will back on Oak Hill this year, and bigger than ever.

"I mean, they completely disregarded" the memo, said Rebecca Wells, who lives nearby. "I'm actually kind of dumbfounded."

Wells is a Music Midtown fan who thinks the city is trying to cram an oversized festival into a too-small space at Piedmont Park.

Voss, who wrote the memo to Conlon, has since changed his tune because the location of the Oak Hill stage has shifted slightly to the south.

"I think the idea was we could not put the stage in the same place and try to expect a different result if we have the same type of weather conditions," Voss said. "And we're not doing that this year. I think we're trying something different." Voss said the repositioning of the stage is expected to alter foot traffic from the Meadow to Oak Hill and back, spreading it out to a wider area.

Following a hiatus, Music Midtown returned to Piedmont Park in 2011 with one stage on the meadow. In 2013, it expanded to three stages and used Oak Hill for the first time. Oak Hill is visible from 10th St. between Charles Allen Dr. and Piedmont Rd.

Public records show an ongoing tug-of-war over Oak Hill in 2013. In a memo to the city, the Piedmont Park Conservancy said Oak Hill can handle "no more than 10,000 people." Music Midtown's permit application envisions 85,000 people per day over two days.

"Now it seems every year it grows exponentially," said Jane Harmon, who has lived in nearby Ansley Park since 1972. "And it's taking over more and more of the park, which means it's harder for the park to survive that kind of intense traffic."

Voss said Music Midtown is "a moneymaker" for the city treasury, which motivates the city to accommodate the popular festival. In 2013, Music Midtown paid the city $400,000 to use Piedmont Park.

"I'm completely confused as to who the protectors of the park really are," said Nancy Bowers, a resident of Midtown.

A spokeswoman for Music Midtown didn't acknowledge numerous requests for comment. The promoter, Live Nation, paid additional money for restoration of damaged areas last year -- and in so doing, kept portions of Piedmont Park off-limits for months.