LAWRENCEVILLE - A mound of snow melted on a Stone Mountain lawn Wednesday after park leaders decided to halt its production following residents' complaints.
The park began producing snow Tuesday for its Coca-Cola Snow Mountain, a new feature scheduled to open next month that was supposed to use more than 200 tons of fresh snow daily.
But with the state in the middle of what state climatologist David Stooksbury called the worst drought since the mid-1920s, Stone Mountain Park faced criticism about its plans, which would have produced a 2-foot-thick layer of ice at the foot of the laser show lawn.
According to the Associated Press, the company that partnered with the park to create offseason snow was set to kick out 38 gallons of municipal water a minute - drawn from DeKalb County's water lines instead of the park's lake - and operate its snow machines 18 hours a day. Within a month, Snow Magic would have used 1.2 million gallons of water.
Christine Parker, a spokeswoman for Stone Mountain Park, said the amount of water used in the venture had not been released by the park. She said snow production began Tuesday and was stopped at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
"We made a decision to cease it temporarily," she said. "We're exploring all our options."
After a meeting Wednesday afternoon, Parker said she still did not know what would happen to the park's plans, which have been in the works for more than two years. The decision to stop snow production was reached in conjunction with the Stone Mountain Memorial Association and the DeKalb County government, she said.
According to a statement from Stone Mountain Park, the attraction had the required approval to be developed and opened. However, a statement by DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones said Coca-Cola Snow Mountain was not exempt from statewide water restrictions.
"After speaking with senior officials from the Environment Protection Division, I was informed that Coca-Cola Snow Mountain is considered a special event and does not fall within the normal course of business operations," Jones said in the statement.
At his annual environmental address last month, Gov. Sonny Perdue urged Georgians to conserve water as they showered and brushed their teeth. In Cobb County last week, Six Flags Park closed two of its water rides - Splashwater Falls and Thunder River - in response to the governor's statewide watering ban, the Associated Press reported.
Stooksbury, the climatologist, said he was struck by the arrogance of Stone Mountain's initial plan to continue snow production for a Nov. 10 opening.
"It's a pretty frivolous adventure," he said. "What message are you sending?"
Stooksbury said several local rivers are notching daily record low flows, with the Chattooga River the lowest it has been in 67 years of record keeping. The region is in an exceptional drought, he said, conditions that are expected once every 100 years.
In those conditions, he said, halting the snow production should not have been a question.
"It seems like a no-brainer to me," Stooksbury said. "They're trying to hide behind legal niceties. Whether it's the right thing to do is a very real question. They might have the legal right to do something like this, but do they have the moral right?"