A recent report by Vision 2030 says Hall County needs more green space to improve quality of life and encourage a culture of wellness.
Vision 2030 is a community initiative of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. The chamber hired an intern to put the report together over the summer. The paper combines several existing plans and lays out a vision and recommendations to achieve 20 percent of green space in the county by 2030.
Currently Hall County has about 16,600 acres of green space, nearly 7 percent of the county’s 392 square miles. To reach 20 percent, the county would need to set aside more than 33,750 acres.
However, the report goes beyond just reaching a percentage of area; it also advocates an “open space network” where all green space would be connected by pedestrian and bike trails. The plan has three elements: a countywide greenway system, a series of focus areas and a priority system for the design.
Dale Jaeger, a local landscape architect, led the green space initiative and the executive committee. She said the committee wanted intern Brightman Thomas to identify areas worth preserving, a priority system, cost-effective conservation options and policy tools and implementation techniques.
“This I really consider sort of the pillars of the plan,” Jaeger said. “One of things that Brightman was thinking about is that you want to have ideas in this plan that are sellable to the community, memorable to the community and sort of have a framework.”
The “pillars” include concepts named The Foothills Greenway System, The Sapphire Necklace and Thompson Ferry.
The foothills greenway is a countywide system that follows natural streams and floodplains. The necklace would encircle Gainesville through the Chattahoochee and Oconee watersheds with a multiuse trail.
Thompson Ferry is a rebranding of the Harbor Town concept. It would be an active, mixed use community off of Lake Lanier, with restaurants, music and ferry rides.
The land could be conserved many other ways than just through purchase, including conservation easements, purchasing land development rights, tax breaks for farmland and timberland preservation, and conservation subdivisions (those that incorporate green space with development).
Recommendations for Hall County include creating conservation subdivision zoning; explore leasing options to generate income; and market proposed routes and benefits of the foothills greenway system.
Recommendations for Gainesville include establishing a local land trust; a conservation easement for Allen Creek; and incorporating Alta Vista Cemetery into the city’s green space plan.
RK Whitehead was a member of the executive committee until the end of June and is familiar with the report. He said what struck him about the report was the suggested connectivity of all green space through trails and paths, along with the community’s long-term thinking.
“We’ve got the Central Hall trail that’s planned and that’s a big piece of it,” Whitehead said. “But some of interesting things were connecting Chicopee Woods and Allen Creek. There was a recommendation about exploring the possibility to connect trails under power line easements.
“Obviously that takes a cooperation across a lot of agencies and groups.”