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A park for Don Carter
Georgia to build first state park in Hall County
Don Carter and Jimmy Carter, who are not related, became friends before Jimmy was elected governor and later president.

One day, walking on a beach along the Georgia coast, Don told the future governor that he would like to serve on the Game and Fish Commission, the forerunner to the Department of Natural Resources.

In time, Gov. Carter would appoint Don Carter to the DNR board, on which he would serve for 29 years under five governors.

In 2002, as he ended his service on the board, Don Carter was surprised with the announcement that a planned park on Lake Lanier would be named in his honor.

"I had no idea they would do that," said Carter. "They had a going away party down at Lake Lanier Islands and that was very moving. Then, at the very end Lonice Barrett got up and announced the naming of the park."

Barrett, at the time, was DNR commissioner.

But Carter was the one who brought the land on Browning Bridge Road to the attention of the state, which would eventually purchase the 1,000-acre site.

"The property was put up for sale," Carter said. "It was going to be developed and the local people fought it. I looked at it and thought it would make a great park."

The land was controlled by businessman Sanford Orkin, whose family started the pest control company that bears their name.

Carter had been asked to fly by helicopter with DNR Commissioner Joe Tanner to view the Smithgall Woods property in White County. On the way, he asked the pilot to fly over what would become the park site. Tanner asked to take a second look and agreed it would make a great location for a state park.

The purchase was made, but tight state budgets kept the state from further development of the park.

The 1,000-acre park is rich with mature hardwood trees that create a lush canopy throughout the tract. The park has more than two miles of shoreline on Lake Lanier.

"I want it to be a rustic park," Carter said. "I wouldn't want to see a golf course or a lodge there. It's big enough that you could have all sorts of things there."

Carter said he would like to see the park used for hiking, fishing and camping.

Gainesville businessman James A. "Jim" Walters, who was appointed to the board first by Gov. Roy Barnes and reappointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, has spearheaded the effort to obtain funds for the park.

"We've been troubled with budget constraints and the park has not been at the top of the list, but we've pushed and since Casey (Cagle) was elected lieutenant governor we now have another ally."

Walters, whose current term ends in 2009, said he would like to see the project advance to the construction phase before he leaves the board.

"This area needs access to a park like this," Walter said. "Hopefully, it could be the gateway to green access to a number of parks like this."

Carter, 76, said he, too, would like to see his namesake park come to fruition.

"I don't think I deserve this, but now that I've got it I'm not going to do away with it," Carter said. "It doesn't look like I'm going to live forever and this is my legacy for 29 years of service."

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