His name alone is on the state park sign, but Don Carter shared the spotlight Thursday afternoon with his wife, Lucile, a longtime community volunteer.
Friends and well-wishers poured into Peach State Bank to honor the couple as part of “Don and Lucile Carter Appreciation Day,” a mostly drop-in event recognizing the Carters’ accomplishments in Gainesville-Hall County.
“Thank you very much, everyone,” Don Carter told the crowd after a brief program featuring presentations by Abit Massey, president emeritus of the Gainesville-based Georgia Poultry Federation.
“This is emotional, I’ll just tell y’all,” Lucile Carter said. “We really appreciate all you being here. Thank you for coming and being our friends.”
The 1,316-acre Don Carter State Park off North Browning Bridge Road in North Hall, overlooking Lake Lanier’s northeastern reaches, opened July 15 after more than a decade in development. The Carters arrived early to greet visitors and pose for pictures at the entrance.
It was named after Carter in 2002, after he had announced he was stepping down from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources board after 29 years.
“I think it is terrific to see the community here recognizing Don and Lucile,” said Lonice Barrett, who was DNR commissioner at the time.
He attended the event, along with former commissioners Joe Tanner and Leonard Ledbetter.
“Lucile, in her own way, has been a very active member of the community. They’re good folks,” Barrett said.
Lucile served on the Gainesville City Board of Education and has been involved with other organizations, such as the Quinlan Visual Arts Center and Georgia Citizens for the Arts, according to Peach State Bank information at the event.
Don received the Gainesville Jaycees Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 and Lucile was presented the Gainesville Rotary Club’s Woman of the Year award.
“We feel like, with Don Carter being an integral part of this community for the last 50 years-plus, he has brought a lot of great things to Gainesville, Hall County and Georgia,” said the bank’s president and CEO, Ron Quinn. “Lucile also has been involved in volunteer organizations in Gainesville and around the state over the years.
“This is a day to honor them for all they’ve done for their community.”
Quinn’s said his ties to Don Carter go back to the Gainesville Bank & Trust. Carter was a founding director of the bank.
“I worked for Don for about 14 years, so we’ve always had a good relationship,” he said. “He’s always been a mentor of mine.”
Quinn said he has visited the state park, which is about five minutes from his house.
“We’re glad to have something like that in our area,” he said. “The two times I’ve been out there, the beaches have been packed.”
The park also features camping, boat ramps, fishing, picnicking, playgrounds, hiking and eight rental cabins. It’s the first state park in Hall County and on Lake Lanier, which otherwise has a privately operated resort, Lake Lanier Islands, and day-use parks and campgrounds operated by the Army Corps of Engineers and local governments.
Don Carter park was financed by a $14 million bond package, with construction costs running about $11.5 million.
A dedication ceremony for the park is set for Sept. 16.