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South Hall quarry’s plans include more than rock crushing
Trees, pathways in store at Vulcan Materians plant site
11052017 VULCAN 2.jpg
Vulcan Friendship Quarry crews build up a berm on October 31, 2017 along the Hog Mountain edge of the longtime Flowery Branch quarry. The longtime Flowery Branch business, which just got the city’s OK to add 20 acres of more quarry space, is also building a community walking trail nearby, one that could be part of the proposed South Hall trail system. - photo by Scott Rogers

Development drawing closer has made beautification a priority at Vulcan Materials Co.’s rock quarry in South Hall.

“We used to be rural, so we didn’t have to worry (about that issue),” said Corey Johnson, an area manager with the Alabama-based company. “Now we’ve got more neighbors, so we’re trying to develop a much nicer look.”

That philosophy change is behind the company’s big push, which could end up meshing with possibly bigger plans to develop a South Hall trail system.

Vulcan Materials Co.

Where: 4195 Friendship Road, Flowery Branch

More info: vulcanmaterials.com or 770-945-6729

Vulcan is moving forward on efforts to develop a landscaped trail along the border of its property off Hog Mountain and Blackjack roads.

“If they give us the green light, we’ll be right in front of it,” Johnson said of trail plans. “We want to be part of it.”

He added that Vulcan has “other operations throughout the country where we’ve done the exact same thing. It’s kind of nice.”

The quarry at 4195 Friendship Road in Flowery Branch is a longtime fixture in the Friendship community, having been under one ownership or another since 1979. Vulcan bought the operation in 2014.

In earlier days, the area around the quarry looked much different. For one thing, Friendship Road was a quiet two-lane road with homes dotting the countryside, and there was little traffic.

In the years since, Buford and Braselton have grown up on either side of the road connecting Interstate 985 to Old Winder Highway/Ga. 347. A six-lane road now connects both sides.

Also, parks and homes — particularly the sprawling 1,000-acre Sterling on the Lake subdivision — have sprung up nearby.

Even as new roads are being built, local government officials have been pushing for another transportation mode — pedestrian and bicycling paths, which would run ultimately from Gainesville to South Hall and perhaps farther, to Gwinnett, which is just south of Ga. 347.

Vulcan set out earlier this year to annex some 20 acres off Hog Mountain and Blackjack roads as part of efforts “to build a better berm,” a stout hillside that would block quarry operations that sink 400 feet into the earth from the view — and earshot — of passers-by.

By “better berm,” officials meant an attractive hillside, one that could fit into the immediate area’s rustic look.

The site will feature a decorative fence and a 10-foot compacted stone walkway “where families can walk, bike and hang out with one another in the evening,” said Dick B. Hall, Vulcan land manager, at a Flowery Branch City Council meeting earlier this year.

Vulcan is planning to add shrubs and bushes, indigenous grasses and Leyland cypress trees.

“The whole berm structure, seeded, planted and everything, is supposed to be done within two years,” plant manager Steve Collier said.

The plans include adding access points, including some parking, for the community.

Hall has said: “If somebody didn’t know this quarry was here ... they’d look around and say this is nice. They may even think about buying some property around here.”

During a visit to the quarry last week, Hall said such beautification efforts aren’t necessarily done by Vulcan’s competitors and “not something we would do either, but in this situation, it made sense.”

Vulcan’s plans have drawn praise from area residents, including Friendship Road area resident Teresa Owens.

“Vulcan has done what they have said they would do,” she said. “Mostly, they’ve been a good neighbor.”

The company’s plans may factor well into the proposed pathway, City Manager Bill Andrew has said.

“The quarry has been a really good partner with us in working on that idea,” he said.

Officials’ trail plans got a recent boost with the approval of $520,000 in federal road planning money for various area transportation projects, including the trail.

Several steps lie ahead before the efforts begin, with the Hall County Board of Commissioners’ approval of consultants set for Dec. 14, said Sam Baker, transportation planning manager with the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Contracts with the Georgia Department of Transportation “give us until the end of 2018 to complete the studies,” Baker said.

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