Gathered at the end of a gravel road in North Hall Thursday morning, state and local dignitaries heaped praise on Gainesville businessman Don Carter as they broke ground on a 1,000-acre state park that will carry on his legacy.
Carter, a local real estate executive, is one of the longest-serving members to the board of directors for Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources. He helped the state acquire more than 290,000 acres for state parks, historic sites and wildlife management.
In his honor, Gov. Sonny Perdue, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and numerous other state and local officials gathered to celebrate the next step in years of planning for the lakeside park that will bear Carter’s name.
When complete, the park will include camping facilities, cottages, hiking trails, horse trails and a boat dock and ramp — just the way Carter said he hoped it would be.
“It will be a park that will benefit the working class of people,” Carter said after the ceremony. “There won’t be any golf courses or any big motels. It will be Mother Nature in her splendor.”
DNR Commissioner Chris Clark said the park will provide a place for area children to play outside, many of whom, he said, are tempted to stay inside watching televisions and playing video games.
“It’s not DNR’s job to go out and pick up those kids and take them outside,” Clark said. “It is our job to make sure they’ve got a quality place to go so they can get back to nature and build a very cool part of their character.”
After nearly eight years of waiting for funding, a $14 million bond package will make construction on Don Carter State Park possible as soon as next year.
Carter’s son, Doug Carter, said his father worried he wouldn’t get to see the park come to fruition. Don Carter, 78, suffers from Parkinson’s disease.
He thanked Perdue for finding the funding for the project this year.
Naming the park for Carter, Perdue said, was an appropriate token to honor his service. Perdue called it a “living, breathing enjoyable memorial to the vision of someone who said ... ‘we don’t have to pave over everything.’”
Cagle, in addressing the crowd of nearly 100, called Carter a “living legend.”
“Some people get bridges, some people get a road or a section of a road. Some people get a parking lot named after them,” Perdue said. “Not many people get a park named after them.”