GAINESVILLE - Don Carter State Park, the first state park on Lake Lanier, is now officially dedicated with Monday proclaimed as Don Carter Day, to recognize the park and the longest serving Department of Natural Resources Board member whose vision inspired it in North Hall County.
Don Carter's 1,316 acre park for the working man and his family has already had 50,000 visitors since it opened in July.
As for Don Carter, who served 29 years on the DNR Board, mostly in park land acquisition, he's just glad it's open. He wants everyone to come enjoy it.
"Finally it's here," he said. "We hope everyone will start using the park. It's a park for the middle class and the children and we're very happy with the way it's turned out."
Carter got special recognition from the Hall County Board of Commissioners and Chairman Dick Mecum, who presented a proclamation.
"The Hall County Board of Commissioners does hereby commend, congratulate, and thank Don Carter for his extensive contributions to Hall County and on this 16th day of September, 2013, this is in fact Don Carter Day," Chairman Mecum said.
Governor Nathan Deal predicted the park will be an important economic generator.
"Tourism is the number two economic driver for the state of Georgia behind agriculture," the Governor told the dedication audience. "This will be a very important cog in that wheel of tourism going forward."
Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites Director Becky Kelley is glad she will no longer guess when Don Carter State Park would open.
"We opened back in July when we started getting staff in and we knew we had to get the summer crowd and introduce ourselves to the community," Kelley said. "We're excited about today's dedication with all the local and statewide support."
Former state senator from Valdosta and a former DNR board member Loyce Turner was among the many dignitaries on hand at the dedication and ribbon cutting. He served on the Board with Don Carter.
"To recognize someone who has worked as long and hard and as dedicated as Don Carter, I came especially to pay him respect," Turner said. "This location with the climate and the lake is just beautiful. It'll serve a lot of people and it'll keep the money in the state of Georgia."
The park offers camping, cabins, boat ramps, fishing, picnicking and playgrounds. It features a large beach with sloped lawn and bath house. There is a 1.5-mile paved trail for hikers, bikers and strollers to explore surrounding hardwoods, and also a two-mile trail.
The park has camping with a modern campground including hot showers for RVs, while another camping area is reserved just for tents and hammocks. There are also two-bedroom cabins with rocking-chair porches and fully equipped kitchens.
According to the DNR visitors pay $5 for parking, and most activities