Evan Curry arrived to a campsite at the newly renovated War Hill Park last Thursday to spend the week fishing with his young sons and enjoying some time with his extended family.
“We’re going to catch some big fish,” 4-year-old Preston told his dad as he walked toward a ledge and tossed his line in the lake.
“I hope so,” said Curry, who said he could not believe how much the park had changed since he last visited.
The park, which sits on Lake Lanier at the end of War Hill Park Road, reopened for the season April 1 after a 1 1/2-year remodeling to upgrade the camping facilities, add new sand for the beach and reconstruct the park’s more than three-decades-old handicap accessible fishing pier.
“The campground has been full every weekend since the park opened this year,” said Lisa Henson, director of Dawson County Parks and Recreation. “And day use has probably quadrupled.”
Henson was the keynote speaker last Thursday as a group gathered at the gazebo on the pier to rededicate the park to the citizens of Dawson County.
The county has a lease agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for care and upkeep of the park, and in 2008 the Corps received a county-matching $80,000 land and water conservation grant to make the improvements.
Jim Ferrante, a supervisor in the county’s facilities department, oversaw the renovation, which took about 1,800 man hours.
“We worked through the winter and it was a cold one, but we had fun with it,” Ferrante said. “Hopefully, when they use it, they leave it the way they found it.”
Henson said the park now meets the standards of integrity that Dawson County has adopted for all of its parks and the parks system.
“We are grateful for the opportunity for the next 25 years to manage this park and hopefully continue to see it grow and prosper through some other projects and expand it into even more than it is today,” she said.
County commissioners are now considering reapplying for the land and water conservation grant with the intent to resurface all roadways and parking areas in the park.
Additional park improvements could include the construction of a pavilion and playground, nature trails, more campsites and “possibly a kayak put-in,” according to Warren King, chairman of the county’s park board of directors.
King compared the improvements to a magnet and said other Corps of Engineer parks in the county are also viable candidates for revitalization in the future.
“We hope that eventually these jewels that are in our county that sit on this lake are going to be taken care of by the county for the citizens of Dawson County ... for the kids now and future generations,” he said.
The park is open daily from daylight to sundown for day-use visitors.