Eric de Groot can be called many things, a humanitarian, visionary, even dreamer. All of those attributes seem to fit as one of his dreams moved closer to reality with LakePoint's groundbreaking.
His plans are for Mini America, a miniature educational theme park at LakePoint Sporting Community & Town Center just outside Cartersville in Emerson, which is expected to be the "biggest thing Bartow [County] has ever seen."
de Groot, 54, a longtime Georgia resident and native of Amsterdam, Holland, was inspired by a miniature theme park in the Netherlands called Madurodam, a little walkable city of Holland history.
"If America didn't exist the world would be totally different," he said.
The Mini America concept was officially commended by the Georgia General Assembly, which called it a "park with a purpose."
Part of the Resolution said it features "famous United States tourist destinations, attractions and landmarks, all in miniature, where you can walk from New York City to Los Angeles or Atlanta to Seattle and see all of America in miniature at a scale of 1:24…."
"I had the idea 10 years ago and I have been working on it ever since,” de Groot said. “I’m trying to build an educational amusement park and the core is to help people; inspire, and motivate them about their own country, and know what resources and opportunities are available to them.”
In October, de Groot was guest speaker at a naturalization ceremony for more than 150 new citizens.
His work in international business appears to have fed into his dream. He is founder of the Holland America Chamber, a for-profit venture focused on economic development between Holland and the United States. For many years, he worked as a consultant for businesses importing products into the U.S., helping them navigate their new marketplace.
de Groot moved to the U.S. in 1982 and became a citizen in 2006. Last month, he was guest speaker at a naturalization ceremony for more than 150 new citizens at the United States Courthouse in downtown Atlanta. The shared commonality among people from everywhere from Brazil to India to Liberia was palpable and appeared to fit with de Groot’s desire to educate people on America.
"Everything I do has the human being in mind. That sounds corny but that is just how I am," de Groot told Patch. "How can America be a great nation if people don’t know where the Declaration of Independence was signed or how many people signed it."
Inspired by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakastani teenager and activist, who is recovering from gunshot wounds inflicted by the Taliban, de Groot told the new citizens that they have a responsibility to be conscious-minded.
"Freedom of speech is not free…We do have a soul. We do care. Make your voice heard when there is injustice here in America and around the world," he said.