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What West Hall residents hope to see in future parks
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Mack Cain, a park planner working with Hall County Parks and Leisure, speaks during a meeting taking input from the public on the parks master plan at Chestatee High School on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

Residents told Hall County parks staff and planners Thursday evening that they would like to see more dog parks, preservation of historical sites and parks that have a variety of facilities.

The gathering at Chestatee High School was the fourth and final meeting held by Hall County Parks and Leisure to seek input for the parks department’s master plan. People can still fill out a survey online to tell officials what they would like to see added or changed to parks facilities.

Clark Patterson Lee, the Suwanee firm hired to develop the master plan, is doing an inventory of current facilities and will use input from the meetings and the survey to draft the master plan. The draft will go to parks staff for review, and the public will be able to comment on it at one more meeting. Then, the Board of Commissioners will approve the plan, which will guide the parks department for the next decade.

Parks Director Mike Little said a gap in services on the north end of Lake Lanier was mentioned at three of the county’s four meetings.

The survey asks people to identify which area of Hall they live in, and meetings were held on each end of the county to get input from all areas.

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Dare Wicker gives his input during a Hall County Parks and Leisure meeting taking input from the public on the parks master plan at Chestatee High School on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

Mack Cain, the Clark Patterson Lee senior landscape architect leading the project, said he thinks parks should fit in with the surrounding environment, and they should have features that people with different interests or needs can enjoy.

“We want to make sure there’s something at every single park so that everyone in the community gets to go there and use it and it’s not a single-use park,” Cain said.

Charlotte Cliche said she travels to parks around the state with her children, who play soccer. She said she likes parks that have a variety of facilities, so families can go together and each choose what they want to do. Fowler Park in Forsyth County could be used as a model, she said — that park has walking trails, soccer fields, a small skate park, a community center with fitness classes, and playgrounds, so it is able to draw a wide variety of people.

“It’s kind of a one-stop shop, and there are so many different activities,” she said.

Another resident said dog parks, or even more animal-friendly trails, could also be an asset so that people in neighborhoods without sidewalks could have a place to safely help their pets get some exercise.

Residents will not have to wait too long for that, although the planned dog park is in a different part of the county. Little said Murrayville Park, which closed in 2011 but is undergoing renovations to reopen, will have a dog park.

More historical sites was another suggestion. Becky Ruffner, who works in marketing and public relations for the parks department, said an advisory committee focuses on historic preservation and how the parks department can incorporate historic sites into parks.

“We talk a lot about recreation and sports and green spaces and trails and biking and the lake, but let’s not forget, is it a responsibility of the Parks and Leisure department to also look at historical preservation in the community where we live?” Ruffner said. “We think so.”

The county is already working on restoring Healan’s Head’s Mill in Lula to create a county park, which will eventually have trails and a heritage center. Ruffner is personally connected to the mill — it was her family’s property and she lived there for a time.

Also, the Col. James Roberts Cabin, which is located at Cherokee Bluffs Park, was the home of a retired American Revolutionary War veteran. The cabin was at the intersection of Hog Mountain Road and Friendship Road for almost 200 years until road projects put its future in question. The Roberts family joined with the Hall County Historical Society to donate the cabin, which was dismantled and donated for preservation at the park.

The last parks master plan was written in 1999 and updated in 2009. The goal is to finish the new plan by April.

Provide input on county parks

Take the survey online: projectsurveys.com

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