Supporters hoping to retain the Friendship Road name for a popular and busy thoroughfare in South Hall made passionate pleas to the Hall County Board of Commissioners on Monday during a work session.
“The appearance of the community may have changed today, but the legacy of Friendship Road has not,” said resident Paula Puckett. “It provides a connection to our past, and is our hope for future generations.”
County leaders said they would likely vote Thursday on whether to rescind the Lanier Islands Parkway moniker for a stretch of Ga. 347 in favor of restoring the Friendship Road name.
Ga. 347 was known at one time as Friendship Road, Holiday Road and Thompson Mill Road between Lake Lanier Islands and Ga. 211.
In January 2010, the commission changed the name of Ga. 347 between Lake Lanier Islands and I-985 to Lanier Islands Parkway.
And in 2013, the commission voted to name a new alignment of Ga. 347 between Spout Springs Road and Ga. 211 as Lanier Islands Parkway.
But a vote on renaming the rest of Ga. 347, or the stretch between I-985 and Spout Springs, was delayed until construction ends on that segment.
Friendship Road supporters want that name retained for the entire stretch of Ga. 347 between I-985 and Braselton.
Commissioners Jeff Stowe, Billy Powell and Scott Gibbs voted two years ago for the change to Lanier Islands Parkway.
Stowe said Monday he voted for the change for two reasons.
First, having multiple names for the thoroughfare was proving to be confusing for emergency responders and public safety officials trying to meet calls for service.
Secondly, the Lanier Islands moniker better reflects the geography of the area and helps direct visitors to points of interest on and around the lake.
Those reasons, however, were disputed by Friendship Road supporters.
“Any attempt to justify your prior vote by claiming it would prevent confusion in handling 911 calls is just not supported by fact,” said resident Phyllis Mercer, adding that I-985 acts as a clear dividing line. “Be brave and do the right thing ...”
Supporters said the change to Lanier Islands Parkway was nothing more than a favor and bottom-line boost for the Lake Lanier Islands resort.
Commission Chairman Richard Mecum said he voted against the name change two years ago because of his concern the history of the area would be forgotten.
Mecum said a compromise might be naming Ga. 347 between I-985 and Braselton as Friendship Parkway, since the parkway description better reflects the road’s widening.
Last year, state lawmakers approved a resolution dedicating Ga. 347 between Interstate 985 and the Braselton town limits as Friendship Road.
The resolution also dedicates Ga. 347 from the western shores of Lake Lanier east to I-985 as Lanier Islands Parkway.
The Friendship community dates to about 170 years ago. Supporters said that heritage is alive in the inscriptions on headstones at local cemeteries and in the pews of local churches.
Bill Frazier, who owns a Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership off I-985 in South Hall, said Monday he never understood why the commission made the change since supporters of keeping the Friendship Road name far outnumbered those on the other side.
It’s decisions like these that turn voters off, Frazier said.
“These are real people,” he added. “The voters have gone away because they think their vote doesn’t count. ... Y’all need to show them that it matters.”
Commissioner Kathy Cooper, who has worked with supporters of Friendship Road to bring the issue back up for consideration, thanked those in attendance.
“I appreciate your compassion and the stability that you’ve had all this time to try to bring something back that you rightly deserve,” she said. “That’s what keeps the community strong.”