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Monday December 10th, 2018 12:19AM

Hall County Parks continues to collect public input on Master Plan

By Marc Eggers Anchor / Reporter

FLOWERY BRANCH – The third in a series of four public input sessions that will influence the direction taken by the Hall County Parks & Leisure Department for the next 10-15 years was held at the Mulberry Creek Community Center Wednesday evening, with approximately forty people engaged and anxious to share their vision for the parks of tomorrow.

“Green space is a part of infrastructure,” said Mack Cain during his presentation, and like any infrastructure it doesn’t happen overnight but must be planned well in advance. 

Cain is Senior Landscape Architect for Clark Patterson Lee, the consulting firm hired by Hall County to prepare the next update to the Park Department’s Master Plan, something that hasn’t been done since 2005.

Cain said his goal in planning new parks or upgrading existing ones is to “tread lightly on the land…parks are an extension of your home.”  He added that parks are not built simply to prevent natural habitat from being developed or bulldozed.  “Parks are for people…not a preserve.”

Mike Little, Director of Parks & Leisure for Hall County, said public comment from the four sessions will be compiled and used extensively in the preparation of the updated Master Plan, something he hopes to present to the Hall County Commission for their approval by late April or early May.

“We want the input from the community; we want to look ten years down the road…what our needs are going to be…so we want the road map laid out and documented and (Hall County) Commission approved for the next ten years,” Little said.

Little said one of the first tasks his department hopes to accomplish is for the parks closed during the economic downturn several years ago to be re-opened.  “That’s on the top of our list…we want to do that sooner than later, we hope within the next two years.”

Another strategy the department hopes to continue is to develop parks near schools.

Cain explained, “We always felt the kids in the schools and the kids in the parks are the same people.  They already have three schools that they put parks next door to them.” 

Among prevalent suggestions made by attendees at the meeting:

  • increase the number of dog parks

  • add more picnic tables

  • separate pedestrian trails from bike trails within the parks

  • construct Pickleball courts

  • build dedicated lacrosse and rugby fields

  • provide more things for young children (swings, slides, etc.)

  • add swimming pools to the park building program

  • provide netting around baseball fields to avoid injury and property damage

  • bring back the Hall County Fair

  • rehabilitate and upgrade old parks before constructing new parks

Cain said the “wish list” and suggestions presented tonight are similar to those offered in the two previous meeting.  He added that the online survey offered to the community has drawn a lot of interest with over 1500 respondents.

Little said that if you cannot attend any of the meetings you are still encouraged to submit your information and comments by filling out the online survey.  Click here to link to that survey.

NOTE: A fourth and final public meeting will be held Thursday, December 6, beginning at 6 p.m., in the cafeteria of Chestatee High School.  The public is invited.

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