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County gets feedback on proposed S. Hall park

POSTED: April 15, 2013 8:34 p.m.

FLOWERY BRANCH — Jessica Ventre would like to see disc golf developed at the proposed Cherokee Bluffs Park in South Hall County, but mainly she is “excited to see more emphasis on green space” in that part of the county.

“It is absolutely essential to my well-being,” said the Cash Road resident.

Ventre was one of about 20 people, including government officials, giving their input on the park, which sits off Blackjack Road near the sprawling Sterling on the Lake subdivision and another county park, the 48-acre Williams Mill Greenspace.

Comments varied widely, from keeping the 106-acre site marked by huge rock outcroppings, streams and woods as pristine as possible to considering concerts as a way to help generate revenue.

Speaking of plans for an amphitheater, “It would seem that your draw here is going to be purely venue-based and may not give you the return on your investment that would seem to be desirable,” said Flowery Branch resident J.C. Wren.

South Hall Commissioner Craig Lutz said he believes “there is a lot of community pull that can be brought in” to the park, citing Sterling events on its community lawn and theater group Fifth Row Center’s productions.

“I think that’s the kind of thing you’re going to be seeing there,” Lutz said. “I don’t see this as being some sort of regional attraction.

“Obviously, with whatever we do, we have to keep in mind the forward operational costs of it.”

Chris Puckett, who lives in the Friendship Road area, asked whether the name of the park was “chiseled in stone.”

“After the mean-spirited and hurtful vote (by the Hall County Board of Commissioners) to change the name of Friendship Road, it would be a small consolation,” he said.

“Friendship Park would be a real good name for that park.”

Most of the 106 acres was bought for just more than $3 million in 2006, according to county records, but development of the park stalled along with the economy.

Lutz has said he thinks now is the time to move forward with the park, which also will feature walking trails, a playground, dog park and possibly a disc golf course, 3-D archery course and equestrian facilities.

Some $1.2 million in impact fees has been set aside to develop the park, along with $600,000 from special purpose local option sales tax VI, which will fund phase II. The county gets impact fees with new development, but the funds must be used by a certain time or they are lost.

Lutz said he believes the county’s Parks and Leisure Services Board needs to “retweak the phases and start getting some cost estimates.

“I would like to see something open and a basic form of trails, parking — maybe not the amphitheater — by next summer,” he said. “But obviously, we’ll have to see how fast we can go with that, and of course we’ll have to figure out the limitations of the money.”

Area residents asked if they might be able to visit the park and see its potential up close.

Lutz said government officials would see what they could do to set up a public tour of the property, perhaps on a Saturday.


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