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Don Carter State Park opens its gates

Visitors appear despite iffy weather

POSTED: July 16, 2013 1:24 a.m.

Off-and-on rainfall didn’t deter visitors from checking out the new Don Carter State Park on Monday in North Hall County.

The 1,316-acre park opened to positive reviews, with people saying they liked its secluded setting and many offerings, including camping, boat ramps, fishing, picnicking, playgrounds, hiking and a large swimming beach.

Eight rental cabins, with rocking-chair porches and fully equipped kitchens, are slated to open later this summer.

“It’s wonderful, beautiful,” said Tasha Smith of Cleveland.

Arriving with floats strapped to the roof of her vehicle, the destination for her and her family was clear: the beach.

Smith said she first learned about the park opening through a recent article in the local newspaper. She was thrilled.

“We have nowhere that’s clean and nice to swim,” Smith said.

Rebecca Bowen of Gainesville said she was excited to have another camping option close by.

“I don’t have to take a week away completely (to camp),” she said. “... I can camp at night and still go to the dentist (during the day).”

Bowen also said she had been tracking the progress of what is Hall County’s and Lake Lanier’s first state park through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ State Parks & Historic Sites website and Facebook page.

Linda and Ralph Lam traveled from Monticello to visit the park.

“We have a hobby. In our lifetime, we want to go to all the state parks in Georgia,” Ralph said. “This is a new one, and we only lack five and then we will have been to every state park in the state.”

They had just arrived, so they hadn’t formed impressions yet. However, they said finding Don Carter was a bit tricky.

“Maybe down the road, a little bit farther, so we know we’re coming in the right direction, they could put up more state park signs,” Ralph said.

“They definitely need some more signs,” Linda said.

On the other hand, being tucked away off the beaten path is an advantage, they said.

“It will be wonderful for outdoorsy people,” Linda said.

The park sits at the end of North Browning Bridge Road, off Clarks Bridge Road, a few miles from the 1996 Olympic venue on Clarks Bridge Road.

Area tourism officials have lauded the park’s opening, saying they hope it will help boost the area’s economy.

“I’ve been looking forward to this facility for quite some time,” said Cheryl Smith, the state’s tourism project manager for the Northeast Georgia mountains.

“It’s a great opportunity to connect the lodging opportunities here with the Olympic venue. A lot of the teams can’t afford some of the hotels, so they don’t come. Plus it’s physically great in that it is in such close proximity.”

The state park project dates to 1994, when the state began buying property there, said retired DNR Commissioner Lonice Barrett.

“We always felt like since there was no other traditional state park on Lake Lanier ... this would be a really good and popular park,” he has said.

In 2002, Barrett announced the naming of the park for Gainesville real estate executive Don Carter during a DNR board meeting at Lake Lanier Islands. Carter was stepping down from the board after 29 years.

“The state could not have found a more appropriate name to give this facility,” said Gov. Nathan Deal in an emailed statement about the park opening.

“Don Carter State Park will provide families and friends with a fantastic recreational resource, and Hall County will benefit immensely from this asset.”

Carter, wife Lucile and son Doug arrived early to greet visitors and pose for pictures at the entrance.

“I feel great,” Don Carter said. “I guess I’m a little disappointed they can’t put (the names of) all the people who had something to do with this (on the sign) instead of mine.”

The DNR is “a great group of folks,” he added. “They’ll look after it real well, and it’ll not only be a fun place but an economic provider for our community.”

Don Carter State Park


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