The sun broke through the clouds just in time to witness the official groundbreaking at Cherokee Bluffs Park.
County employees, elected officials and citizens gathered at the Wednesday event, marking forward movement on plans that have been in place for years.
“This is something we can all be very proud of,” Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton said. “It took a lot of time, effort, resources and hard work to get us to this point.”
Located on Blackjack Road behind the Sterling on the Lake subdivision in Flowery Branch, the property itself was purchased by Hall County in 2005 for around $3 million. Plans to move forward on the park were delayed during the recession.
The 100-acre park will have three phases of construction. The first phase will feature trail development, a playground, disc golf course, 3-D archery range and amphitheater.
Construction of the first phase should be complete by March or April.
The stretch of land lends itself to picturesque views; officials expect it to be a popular place for walking, hiking and biking.
“I try to get out and walk about 16 miles a week. I do it because I need to try to stay in some semblance of shape other than round,” said South Hall Commissioner Craig Lutz, laughing.
“One of my favorite walks is to come in ... to the back of the park where I come out behind the bluffs by the pond, walk up here to the gate. I come down this road and I usually sit right there on that bench. ... I prop my feet up on that rock and start giving some thought about the wonderful things that God has created out here.”
With access to the nearby Sterling on the Lake, some residents already use a back path on walks across the land.
“Our residents in Sterling on the Lake back up to this,” Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller said. “A lot of residents currently use it and so any of the amenities that the county will use, (with) the impact fees that Sterling and other parts of our city have produced in South Hall, it will be nice to see those come to fruition and see amenities down here that we can all take a part of. Not just South Hall, but there are some folks here from North Hall at this groundbreaking. It would be nice to see everybody take use of this park.”
The total cost of construction is estimated to be around $2.8 million. Funding is coming from both impact fees and the special purpose local option sales tax VI.
While construction gets under way on Cherokee Bluffs, other parks in the county remain closed, including Platt Park and Murrayville Park.
“You can’t use the money that we’re using to build this park to open up the others,” said Lutz, explaining the money was specifically earmarked for new construction. “Those parks have operational expenses associated with them. For instance, cutting the grass. Keeping the lights on. Those kinds of things. This park is being designed to have a minimal impact on our budget going forward, so it will be less expensive to operate this park than it would have been the other parks.”
Hall County has an agreement with Kubota, allowing the tractor manufacturing company to test equipment on the site of Cherokee Bluffs in exchange for mowing the large swath of grass.
“I am looking forward to the days when kids put down their iPads, Xboxes and PlayStations, and get out here on a day like today and start flying kites,” Lutz said. “Start running on these hills. Playing disc golf on the field next to us. I’m looking forward to the day when people start creating their own memories out here, when we have weddings out here, family reunions out here, or when people just come out here and begin to think.”