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Leaders plot course for Healan’s Head’s Mill
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George Evans' artist rendering of the welcome center at the Healan's Head's Mill property shows what Hall County and volunteers hope to make of the property in the years ahead. (Photo courtesy of Hall County)

Healan’s Head’s Mill is on track to become a 100-acre park in January.

Stakeholders of the group working to restore the mill met on Thursday to discuss particulars of their work rebuilding the 170-year-old grist mill — and sawmill and corn and pea sheller and powerhouse — south of Cornelia Highway on the way to Lula.

Hall County and the Friends of Healan’s Head’s Mill hope to close on an additional 97 acres of land around the mill to lay the groundwork for a welcome center and trail network.
Jane Hemmer and Jim Syfan, two members of the executive committee leading the volunteer effort to restore the mill, told The Times this month that the county was closing in on a purchase of the surrounding land.

Now, those plans are firming up.

The county secured a $300,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to help buy the land. The grant has a 50 percent match, and the total funds available to buy land are $624,229, according to Assistant County Administrator Marty Nix, who is managing the restoration project from the county’s side.

The county has contributed another $324,229 in special purpose local option sales tax dollars, Nix said.

The Friends of Healan’s Head’s Mill raised $30,000 in donations to help fund the overall project.

The land around the mill is owned by an investment group, Hall TLP & G LLLP, and Nix said the group is working with the county on the sale.

With action in the works on the surrounding land, plans are still being laid for the mill structure itself.

Repairing the water wheel and gearing will cost another $47,000, according to Hall County Grants Manager Nancy Smallwood. She’s applied for a grant that would cover a significant portion of the cost, but the volunteer group is planning future fundraisers to help cover some of the costs.

Meanwhile, the county is working with a local farming family, which is still unnamed by the county, on an agreement to host the family’s extensive collection of historic farming equipment in the future county park around the mill.

The leadership of the group includes prominent members of the Hall County community who are volunteering their time — including architect and local historian Garland Reynolds, who is designing the welcome center and other additions to the property.

Abit Massey, chairman of the committee, and his family have committed substantial amounts of money to the mill’s repair. On Thursday, he said he’s excited to get back to work on the property.

“I love seeing the mill now, but it’s really going to be fun when that wheel is turning again,” Massey said.

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