Hall County’s newest park, Cherokee Bluffs, is being lauded for its golden views of surrounding South Hall County and unique display of huge rock outcroppings.
With its tree-lined trails following along creeks and set beneath rock formations, hikers and bikers might even think they’re in the Northeast Georgia mountains.
The journey to the park’s opening Nov. 20 was no easy journey and came nine years after the original date to break ground.
The opening marked the culmination of years of planning and development, as well as securing the proper funding. Because of the Great Recession, the project was shelved for a time.
“It was just not something we felt like we could do … so it pretty much got put on the backburner,” said Craig Lutz, former South Hall representative on the Hall County Board of Commissioners.
After the economy had rebounded, Lutz was a key force in putting the project back on the radar.
Nearly $3.5 million had been spent before the recession to buy the property using special purpose local option sales taxes money and a federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant.
Last year, the commission approved a $2.8 million budget for the 168-acre park at 5867 Blackjack Road, near Sterling on the Lake subdivision, that was funded by impact fees and special purpose local option sales taxes.
“After seeing the history we have there and the wonderful topography and geography of the park, I think it says something that the county was able to preserve that gem (largely) using funds that came from development in the area,” Lutz said, referring to impact fees.
The park, with 62 acres leased to the county by Vulcan Materials Co., features a network of trails, a community room with an attached museum, an open-air picnic pavilion with fireplace, and a 400-seat amphitheater that’s suitable for concerts, weddings and other events.
Also, visitors can explore the tops of the outcroppings, but it’s clear the county wants them to use caution as several signs are posted saying “Hazardous cliff! Warning!”
Area resident Chris Puckett said he’s impressed with the park, particularly its views, and is looking forward to more improvements, including moving an old, pioneer cabin to the property to further showcase the area’s history.
The park’s name suggests Cherokee settlement around the area, with lore that a Cherokee chose to jump to his death off one of the rocks rather than be forced to march in the tragic Trail of Tears.
“I wished there was more emphasis on the rock,” said Puckett, who lives off nearby Friendship Road/Ga. 347.
One of the rocks extends, providing a shelter beneath it.
“My ancestors lived under that rock when they first came into Hall County in 1828,” Puckett said. “That’s a special place to me.”
More work is on the way, including a playground, disc golf and a stone walkway from the manmade lake to the rocks. Also planned are more multi-use trails, adding up to what will be 5 miles.
“There’s so much to explore here,” parks director Mike Little said. “And there’s so much variety … with rolling pastures, pine thickets and deer in here like crazy.”
Cherokee Bluffs might be a selling point for residents considering a move to the area — the already huge Sterling on the Lake is adding more homes.
But Lutz sees the park as much more.
“This is a quality of life element,” he said, adding he believes more than just locals will take advantage. “It’s a regional asset.”