Hall County resident Teresa Owens said she’s concerned about preserving whatever history remains in the planned Cherokee Bluffs Park in South Hall.
Consultants are moving forward with the infrastructure design of the 101-acre site the county purchased in 2006.
It’s expected to be a passive park, with walking and biking trails, as well as an outdoor performing space.
An area tentatively being called Friendship Village may also be developed.
However, Owens wants to capture any historical remains before moving forward on the park.
She wants the unmarked cemetery examined, with remains and boundaries identified. She also wants further archaeological study of the rock shelter.
There was an initial survey done in 2006 with the rock overhang identified as an area where primitive stone tool flakes were found. The company that did the survey, New South Associates, said it couldn’t determine the historical significance of the site and suggested further study.
County officials have said they understand the area has historical value and the park will be designed to celebrate that history.
Owens said she believes Commissioner Craig Lutz was the only member of the Hall County Board of Commissioners who knew of the study.
“I’m surprised that the other commissioners were not aware of that archaeological report since they were going forward with the development of the property,” Owens said. “(Residents are) asking them to vote on things to approve to go forward with it, and they weren’t even aware of (the study).”
Lutz said the county was open to another archaeological study on the site. The master plan for the park by consultants Hayes, James & Associates shows the county has planned to do a cultural study.
Mike Little, director of the county’s Parks & Leisure, said the county does plan to do more archaeological studies in some areas of the park; however, it’s not listed in the master plan. The plan does include a soil study for sewer. Hall is looking at being included in the Old-Growth Forest Network, which helps preserve ancient forests.
State Archaeologist Bryan Tucker said he was contacted about doing more examination of the rock shelter site, but since there was already a preliminary report, there wasn’t much more he could do.
Tucker said he looked at the report, and the first study didn’t find much. He also said to excavate the site would be to dig it up, destroying it.
“If the site is not endangered and there’s no really strong research program, we recommend that the sites not be investigated further,” he said. “Because investigating them destroys them.”
The park and the rock overhang seem to be an occasional, but consistent, target for vandalism, graffiti, rock climbing and campfires. Little said the graffiti and signs of trespassing into the park have not been reported to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. Although the front entrance gate is locked, the back of the park is heavily wooded and not fenced.
Lutz said he lives close to the park in Flowery Branch and said the instances of petty crime there must be happening at night.
“That house out there was almost completely destroyed by vandals,” he said. “We’re having to take it down because there’s asbestos in it, but it was for the most part destroyed by vandals.”
He’s concerned about losing history, but he said he’s also worried that people trespassing there at night and climbing the rocks could fall and injure themselves.
“There’s been probably people out there partying at those rocks for as long as those rocks have been there,” Lutz said. “There are safety concerns.”
Owens said she, too, wants something done about the criminal destruction that is happening.
“This is history that goes back to the beginning of this state,” she said.