Leaves aren’t all that are changing for visitors to the new Don Carter State Park in North Hall County.
Through new road signs, the state will give motorists traveling southwest to the park at 5000 N. Browning Bridge Road a new way to get there.
Signs have guided visitors traveling south on Ga. 365 to turn right on Ga. 52/Lula Road, then left on rural Glade Farm Road to Ga. 284/Clarks Bridge Road. Then, visitors have traveled south before turning left on North Browning Bridge Road, which dead-ends into the 1,316-acre park.
Now, visitors will be directed to stay on Ga. 52 until it reaches Ga. 284, a crossing where Ga. 52 becomes Brookton-Lula Road heading west. From there, motorists will travel south, passing Glade Farm, en route to the park.
“We discovered this issue on our own. We have some employees coming in from the north from Habersham County,” park manager Will Wagner said.
“Although they’re coming in small vehicles and actually prefer Glade Farm, we did notice (Glade Farm) isn’t the best route for an RV or large unit. So we decided in-house to go ahead and change that.”
The change has required some coordination so it lines up with signs that indicate the distance in miles to the park.
“We couldn’t move the sign at Glade Farm until we had the new (distance) sign on Ga. 365,” Wagner said. “Otherwise, it would have been erroneous.”
The sign change is good news to Glade Farm residents Ron and Becky Smith, who watched as trucks and other heavy vehicles passed by their house during the park’s construction. Don Carter State Park unofficially opened July 15 and was dedicated by Gov. Nathan Deal and other officials on Sept. 16.
But the Smiths said they still believe Glade Farm will be a popular cut-through, particularly as it shows up as a clear shortcut on digital mapping applications, such as Google Maps.
“I think those who have already visited, which is probably a very large number of people, already have this route in their minds,” Becky Smith said.
For motorists traveling from Lula and points north off Ga. 365, Google Maps suggests several routes to the park, including via Ga. 369/Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville to U.S. 129/Limestone Parkway. Clarks Bridge Road juts off Limestone, heading mostly due north to the park.
“You’d think GPS would do the same thing every time, but I’d say, about 70 or 90 percent of the time, it tells me to go all the way to the (Ga. 52 at Ga. 284),” Wagner said. “Google Maps always tells me to avoid Glade Farm.”
Glade Farm Road has been targeted for big change, depending on what happens with Hall County’s application for a permit to build the 850-acre Glades Reservoir.
“We are awaiting final decision on (the permit) and when that will move forward for construction, before spending capital dollars on a road that will be underwater in perhaps a few years,” said Ken Rearden, Hall County’s public works and utilities director.
A new route “is basically a concept now,” he said, adding the project “will be part of the overall cost of the reservoir,” he said.
The new road might feature a small bridge on the north end of the reservoir, Rearden added.
Until the reservoir decision is made, “we will monitor the condition (of Glade Farm Road) and do patching and perhaps major patching where warranted,” he said.
One other transportation issue for Don Carter State Park has been Ga. 284, which in itself is a common cut-through route for motorists traveling south from U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway and White County.
Terry Roberts, who lives off the road north of North Browning Bridge, said in an earlier interview that motorists frequently speed, tailgate and pass speed-limit-abiding drivers on the road.
“They’ll come down through there, putting makeup on and half asleep.” he said.
Lt. Stephen Wilbanks, Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said speeding complaints along the road “are a constant.”
Wagner said he has heard from area residents about Ga. 284’s dangers.
“They go a little too fast out there,” he said.
Otherwise, the park’s visitation “has been great” during the fall so far, Wagner said. It’s booked on weekends and getting reservations already in 2014, he added.