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Forsyth to sue corps over Bethel Park

POSTED: June 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The Forsyth County commission has decided to pursue legal action against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the battle over Bethel Park.

The move, Commissioner David Richard said, came during a closed session Thursday afternoon.

Richard told attendees at the Lake Lanier Association political forum, which was held later that night in Dawson County, that the board would file an injunction in federal court.

The commission is unhappy with the corps’ decision to turn over control of the 62-acre lakeside park in northeastern Forsyth, which is Richard’s district, to the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta.

The measure seems to have the full support of the five-member board, including Chairman Charles Laughinghouse, who is out of the country and did not attend Thursday’s session.

Laughinghouse has previously said it is an important issue, noting that the park draws people from the area, not just Forsyth.

Earlier this month, the board directed County Attorney Ken Jarrard to begin legal action. The commission also asked Jarrard to file an open records request to determine the basis of the corps’ decision.

The corps chose the YMCA plan over one submitted by the county.

The county, which has leased several other corps parks, proposed running Bethel as a 75-site campground with a day-use area open to the general public.

The YMCA’s $20 million plan for a private camp calls for cabins, a marina, sports fields, dining hall, amphitheater, chapel and outdoor pool.

Commissioners have voiced concern over the difficulty residents could have accessing Lake Lanier if the YMCA turns the park into a private camp, which is its plan.

Residents have in the past voiced support of the county’s intentions to sue the corps.

The YMCA has been trying since 2003 to develop a residential camp at the site. The corps was set to award the lease to the YMCA in 2006, but residents complained to the county commission.

The commission has contended the corps did not follow its own rules and should have given the county right of first refusal before the contract was offered to the YMCA.

To compensate for giving Bethel to the YMCA, the corps has proposed enhancing the amenities at another nearby corps property, Two-Mile Park.

County officials have expressed doubt that Two-Mile Park could accommodate the resulting boat and car traffic from such a shift.

Stephanie Griffin of The Times regional staff contributed to this report.



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