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Trails may be finished this spring at Don Carter State Park
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Cliff Ainsworth, park manager at Don Carter State Park, and Will Hicks, president of Friends of Don Carter State Park, walk Wednesday along the path where a new trail will be constructed at Don Carter State Park. Roughly 12-14 miles of equestrian trails and 12 1/2 miles of hiking trails are currently being added to the park. - photo by David Barnes

Horse and hiking trails could be completed this spring at Don Carter State Park in North Hall, marking a major milestone in the fledgling park’s development.

“That will finish up the trail network,” said Will Hicks, Friends of Don Carter State Park president, during a visit to the park last week.

The trails will finger out through 1,100 of the park’s 1,316 acres.

“We will have utilized all the property … by putting in (the trails),” Hicks said.

Don Carter State Park

Where: 500 North Browning Bridge Road, Gainesville

Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

More info: gastateparks.org/DonCarter or 678-450-7726

The park could end up featuring up to 26 ½ miles of trails. They would be divided up almost equally, with 12-14 miles of horse trails and 12 ½ miles for hiking, park manager Cliff Ainsworth said.

The park, which opened in 2013, already has 3 ½ miles of paved and unpaved hiking trails.

North Browning Bridge Road, which leads park visitors from Clarks Bridge Road to the park entrance, also will serve as the dividing line between the trail systems.

Hiking trails will run predominantly south of North Browning Bridge and horse trails, north of it. A trailhead for both systems will sit off North Browning Bridge and near the park entrance, featuring parking and restrooms.

“Once we get the trails finished up and get everything marked … I think the plan is the state wants to come in and do a grand reopening of the park,” Hicks said. “Hopefully, that’s going to be sometime in the spring.”

Hicks sees the new trails serving as a serious destination for hikers and equestrians.

The friends group plans to work with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s Vision 2030 greenspace committee “to get a big trail map for the whole county.

“We’re going to try to get all this publicized … (in an effort to) drive people out here.”

Overall, Hicks said he thinks the trail’s completion should add to the park’s overall appeal.

“You’d be able to come in and do primitive camping or RV camping, or stay in a cottage, and then pick different segments of the (trail) to hike,” he said. “You could do the whole thing if you’d like or do different loops at different lengths.

“You could really structure it so you’re not making the same hike twice.”

Trails are just part of the park’s many amenities.

The park features a visitor center, camping, fishing, picnicking, playgrounds, beach and rental cabins with rocking-chair porches.

The recreation area was named after Don Carter, a longtime Hall County resident, who served on the Georgia Board of Natural Resources for nearly three decades.

Other projects are planned.

“We want to add a new bathhouse at the primitive camping area,” Hicks said. “I see us eventually adding more primitive camping.”

“And there’s the possibility of walk-in campsites,” Ainsworth said. “But that’s not on the list for the next two years.”

A 10-year plan, which hasn’t been finished, also could feature more cottages and campsites, he added.

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