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What's next for Lake Lanier Olympic Park
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A rendering of the Olympic Ring Plaza coming to the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue shows a space for athletes and visitors to take photos with the rings, using the lake as a backdrop. (Photo courtesy Lake Lanier Olympic Park)

Visitors to Lake Lanier Olympic Park could have more places to walk and more options for accessing the park by boat.

The Lake Lanier Olympic Park’s master plan, which was approved by the corps in 2018, “covers so many aspects of the park,” said Robyn Lynch, convention and visitor’s director with the city of Gainesville. “We're trying to prioritize what the next steps are going to be, and we really wanted feedback from the community on what it would like to see out there.”

Already in the plans is a massive renovation to the boathouse, which will include a 1,000-seat meeting and event space with windows facing the lake. They’re planning to add walking trails to the property, a pavilion with picnic tables and benches, updated bathrooms, a sun shade covering the grandstands and a boardwalk for fishing and getting closer to the lake.

Now, the park has put out a survey, asking the community what it would like to see and what it thinks the park needs most. Lynch said more than 150 people have already taken the survey and she’s encouraged by the responses.

“Right now it looks like the trend is they really want to see more walking trails that are accessible,” Lynch said. “A lot of people come out to the park to walk, but instead of walking on the plaza or around the parking lot, they want defined trials.”

She said she’s also seen responses suggesting more boat docking areas so people can travel to events by boat but still be able to make their way up to the event after they’ve arrived.

“For our concerts, we always have a lot of people come out and anchor right in front of the plaza to listen to the concert,” Lynch said. “But we need to find a way for more people to be able to park and come up and enjoy the facilities too.”

While they're still in the design period of renovations to the boathouse, an Olympic Ring Plaza is nearing construction on the tower side of the park. The Olympic rings are being prepared for a space that will serve as a photo opportunity for teams competing in events and visitors to the park.

It will also explain much of the history of the venue and how it came to be. The venue was built for the 1996 Olympics Games and was the location for the rowing and canoe/kayak competitions. It is the last remaining venue from those Games that continues to be used for its original purpose.

“It's always good to have a place where people can soak in history,” said Jim O’Dell, program director for Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club. “And having this new little area is going to be great on a number of levels. History notwithstanding, the accessibility to have a photo op for visitors from all over the world that do come there is going to be really something special.”

The Olympic Ring Plaza will likely get most of its use from visitors to the area, but James Watson, interim division manager at Lake Lanier Olympic Park, said he wants to remind people that it’s a community park, which is a main reason they put out the survey.

“At the end of the day, it's definitely a community park,” Watson said. “And it's for the people in the city and county to enjoy, so we want to find out what they want to see out here.”

One of the surprises they’ve seen on the survey that isn’t in the original master plan is a request for a playground or playground equipment. Lynch said she likes to see what they missed in the original plan and, if enough people request something, she’s hoping to find a way to work it into the plan or get it done sometime in the future.

“We think we know what the park needs, but it's always good to reach out to people who use the park every day, or maybe don't use the park, and maybe find out why and what sort of improvements we need to make,” Lynch said.