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What community members would like to see in future county parks
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A flock of geese fly towards the lake at River Forks Park on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

At a meeting held by Hall County Parks and Leisure on Tuesday evening, local residents said they want the parks department to take advantage of existing resources in the area, such as Lake Lanier and local colleges.

They also said they would like to see programs and parks staff distributed evenly throughout the county and more trails for walking or biking.

The county is seeking input for its new master plan, which will guide decisions about new facilities and upgrades for the next decade. The last master plan was completed in 1999 and updated in 2009, so now officials want to take a fresh look at what can be improved or added based on feedback from the community.

Residents can attend one of three remaining public meetings or take an online survey to tell officials about their experiences and what they would like to see.

Public meetings

  • 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29: North Hall Community Center
  • 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5: Mulberry Creek Community Center
  • 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6: Chestatee High School

Take the survey online: projectsurveys.com

Mack Cain, a senior landscape architect at Clark Patterson Lee who is leading the master plan, said the goal is to be finished with the plan by April. It will be reviewed by parks staff and the parks advisory board, then go to the Hall County Board of Commissioners for approval.

On Tuesday, Jose Torres said the county could pursue more partnerships with colleges and universities so students can get out of the classroom and learn in the parks, particularly on the lake. Torres teaches at Lanier Technical College.

“Parks are for sports, but they can be educational,” he said. “With the colleges and universities, there could be a good partnership.”

Torres also said he would like to see county parks take advantage of the natural beauty of Lake Lanier and showcase the lake. Cain said that is a goal moving forward, but private ownership of lake land and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ control of the lake limit availability of land on the lake.

Beverly Brinson said she would like to see county staff and resources allocated more equally around the county. East Hall Park needs more scoreboards, but other parks have them, she said. The county also has only two coordinators for athletics programs, which is not enough when parks are spread out around the county, she said.

“All the facilities in the county are not equally represented,” Brinson said.

For Steve Patterson, trails are a priority. He said he wants to see trails connected to form a path from downtown Gainesville to Lanier Tech, which would make the county more walkable.

“I’d think we’d have the opportunity for some businesses along there,” he said, noting the Beltline in Atlanta could be used as a model.

The Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization is finishing a trail study to look at locations for multi-use trails in the county, and officials have said they hope to connect existing trails to form a larger trail network.

Cain said trails have become a top request for parks systems.

Larry Poole, a Gillsville councilman, said he would also like to see more trails, especially in North and East Hall.

“I realize this all boils down to funding, and I know how difficult that is, but until we get that in the planning process and the master overview of what we need, it’s going to be more difficult to get it done,” he said.

Poole also said he wants parks to reflect the character of the areas where they are located.

“(Designers) tend to level everything and build a park. It takes away a lot of the beauty that you could otherwise enjoy,” Poole said.

Cain said Hall has great opportunities for parks because “your land is not spoiled yet.”

“It’s not overrun with all kinds of other development,” he said.

Other needs planners anticipate include increased interest in soccer as the area diversifies, Cain said. Cricket could also become more popular, he said.

Cain said changes have been coming as baby boomers age and communities’ expectations adjust.

“I grew up with football, baseball and basketball. That was it,” Cain said. “…What’s happening with baby boomers’ children, which are the millennials, they’re not engaging in sports as much as our generation did.”

But both millennials and baby boomers like trails, he said.

Cain said about 1,300 people have already taken the survey, and planners hope to double that number.

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