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Rain slows progress of Don Carter State Park

No opening date set yet, officials say

POSTED: April 21, 2013 11:58 p.m.
Tom Reed/The Times

Work continues around bathrooms Tuesday in the RV camping area of Don Carter State Park.

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Don’t consider making any reservations yet.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ website for Don Carter State Park says officials hope to open the new recreation area in late spring.

But rainy weather this year has held up construction.

“Sometime this year is the most definite thing I can say” about an estimated completion date, said Kim Hatcher, spokeswoman for the DNR’s Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites, during a tour of the site last week.

Buildings, roads and amenities, including a white, sandy beach, are largely in place at the 1,040-acre park off the northeastern reaches of Lake Lanier.

But there’s still a fair bit of work to be done, including paving roads and putting in landscaping.

As far as the paving goes, “we need some dry days, which we haven’t had a lot of lately,” said Will Wagner, who was recently named park manager.

But rain also recharges Lake Lanier, and a full lake will benefit the new park, with its boat ramps and many views of the Chattahoochee River, which flows into Lake Lanier.

And four months ago, Lanier had dropped nearly 14 feet below full pool, evoking memories of the historic 2007-09 drought.

A full lake “is something we’d rather have than not,” Wagner said.

Hatcher said she understands that people are eager to visit the park, which sits off North Browning Bridge Road, a leg off Clarks Bridge Road, in North Hall.

“I’ve been getting a lot of messages on our Facebook page of ‘We want to make reservations; when can we?’” Hatcher said. “We just can’t (take them yet).”

When completed, Hall County’s first state park will feature 48 campsites with water and electricity, eight two-bedroom cottages, visitors center, playgrounds, boat ramps and a beach/bathhouse in a scenic cove off the Chattahoochee.

Also, it will feature a series of interconnecting trails throughout the park. “A main goal is to keep pedestrians off the roads,” Wagner said.

Ken Rearden, Hall County’s public works director, said the county is planning to pave North Browning Bridge Road from Clarks Bridge Road to the park entrance by May 1.

That work also will involve some sight distance improvements and lane/shoulder widening.

The tree-lined North Browning Bridge Road, now a narrow, dirt-packed strip, is expected to accommodate a high number of RVs, Rearden said.

The park project dates to 2002, when its namesake, Gainesville real estate executive Don Carter, was stepping down from the DNR board after 29 years.

Then-DNR Commissioner Lonice Barrett announced the naming of the park at a going-away party for Carter at Lake Lanier Islands.

Carter had brought the property to the attention of the state, which would eventually buy the land.

Then, after nearly eight years of waiting for funding, a $14 million bond package would make the project a reality, with construction costs making up about $11.5 million of the total cost.

Area and state dignitaries, including then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, gathered at the park site for a formal groundbreaking ceremony in August 2010.

Wagner said he, like many others, is excited about the park opening.

He was managing James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park in Summerville when he applied — and later got the call — to become Don Carter’s first manager.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a park ranger to open a park,” Wagner said.


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