Construction work has started on key parts of Don Carter State Park off northeastern Lake Lanier, with the opening now expected in summer 2013.
During a visit Monday afternoon, dump trucks and bulldozers were rolling along dirt-packed and gravel roads fingering throughout the 1,040-acre park.
When completed, Hall County’s first state park will feature 48 camp sites with water and electricity, eight two-bedroom cottages, visitors center, playgrounds, two boat ramps and a beach/bathhouse in a scenic cove off the Chattahoochee River.
“This is the second state park we’ve ever built from scratch,” said Toby Evans, Northern Region manager for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, noting that the first one was Chattahoochee Bend in Newnan.
Throughout the project, workers have tried to spare as many trees as possible, he said.
“And there’s been a couple of places where we (were) just going to do some reforestation,” Evans said.
“The trees that we could have saved probably weren’t worth saving, so we’re just going to plant new ones.”
Construction started in December, but the park dates back 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 identified the property, which sits off North Browning Bridge Road, 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.
“It’s an economic stimulator and will put people to work,” Evans said, justifying the project taking place during hard economic times. “But it was planned ahead of the downturn, and the recreational need is here.”
Area and state dignitaries, including then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, gathered at the park site for a formal groundbreaking ceremony in August 2010.
“It will be a park that will benefit the working class of people,” Carter said at the time. “There won’t be any golf courses or any big motels. It will be Mother Nature in her splendor.”
Evans said that Carter “comes out about every week” to check on the project.
Once the DNR locks in a date for the park opening, “we will start advertising it and (people) can start making reservations,” he said.
Evans said he’s pleased so far with the progress, and he especially appreciates the park’s many scenic vistas.
“It’s a beautiful park,” he said.