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Friends group to help develop Don Carter State Park
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Friends of Don Carter State Park

What: volunteer organization supporting the state park

As former manager at James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park in Summerville, Will Wagner has been down this road before, with good results.

He saw the Friends of Georgia State Parks chapter generate about $5,000 for beautification projects.

“They were able to build things that we didn’t have state funds (for),” said Wagner, now running Don Carter State Park in North Hall County.

A Friends group with plans of developing projects to benefit Don Carter State Park, which opened in July 2013, is gaining momentum, holding its first public meeting at the park last Thursday.

At that meeting, President Will Hicks introduced the group to potential members and explained the group’s function and possible projects.

The organization is hoping to enlist as many members as it can, he said.

“I want as many as we can get,” Hicks said in an interview before the meeting. “The more support we get, the more members we have, the more volunteers, the more money we can raise and the more projects we can help support.”

The group started organizing in early spring and had to have four board members before applying for chapter status, which it got in September.

Hicks said the group’s main roles are supporting and helping build support for the 1,316-acre park, assembling volunteers for projects and raising money.

“The fundraising comes in numerous ways, including volunteer hours that people put in at the park, where we get compensated back from the state organization,” he said.

Also, money comes from the sale of annual passes and grants the group is able to obtain at the state level, Hicks said.

The new chapter is eyeing several projects, including beautification in areas scarred by construction work and building a bathhouse in the busy primitive camping area and a pioneer campground for large groups.

Also, the group wants to work with the park’s namesake, Don Carter, to try to get an old log cabin moved to the park.

The cabin could serve as a focal point for events, such as bluegrass music sessions.

“That’s one that’s going to take a couple of years to come to fruition,” Hicks said.

Carter, who served for 29 years on the Georgia Department of Natural Resources board before stepping down in 2002, attended Thursday’s introductory meeting.

He said he’s excited about the group’s mission, including the move to get a pre-Civil War cabin rebuilt on the grounds — something featuring Cherokee relics and history.

“People enjoy something that’s part of this region,” Carter said.

A “good (cabin) reconstructed on your property” can cost $40,000, he said.

As for the chapter itself, “sometimes it’s hard to get something like this started,” Carter said. “What we’ve got here appeals to so many people, so it ought to be successful.”

Hall County native Lloyd Unnold is one of those eager to see the group succeed.

“I bow-hunted out here before it was a gleam (of an idea),” he said. “This (park) is the best thing you could ever do with this property.

“I’m on the volunteer list already, but you just can’t do enough. There is so much possibility here.”

The park, which is off North Browning Bridge Road and Lake Lanier, features a beach, camping, boat ramps, fishing, picnicking, playgrounds, hiking and eight rental cabins.

Also being planned is a series of trails on undeveloped areas, including bluffs overlooking the lake.

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