The Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Board got a look at new plans for a south Forsyth park, which will feature pickleball courts, trails and four rectangular fields, which will include two cricket pitches.
On Wednesday evening, the board heard an update of the master plan of Denmark Park, which is planned to be built on Mullinax Road from Denmark High School, from officials with Woolpert, Inc. and held a public hearing to give residents a chance to give their thoughts on the project. Board members approved the recommendation for the plans, which will next go to county commissioners at their Tuesday, March 24 work session.
The park is proposed with two entrances – one with a signalized intersection on Mullinax Road across from the high school and another with a roundabout on Windy Hill Road – and will include a multi-court complex, the historic Dr. Denmark clinic (the namesake of the park and school), a passive picnic area, a large shelter pavilion, a multi-sport field complex, a dog park and more than two miles of trails.
The multi-court complex, located on the west side of the park, will include 10 outdoor pickleball courts and three half-courts for basketball and a covered multi-sport pavilion with eight pickleball or four half-court basketball along with restrooms.
“There could be other uses,” said Katie Thayer with Woolpert. “Summer programs ran by parks and rec, kind of just a large outdoor space for multiple activities, and it’s connected in the front there to restrooms, concession, storage.”
A handful of speakers at the meeting were in support of the pickleball courts, including Allen Hicks.
“This emphasis on the pickleball courts will be great for the growth of pickleball in Forsyth County but also for north Atlanta,” he said.
For the multi-sport field complex, on the eastern side of the park, four synthetic turf rectangular fields will be built with two 400-foot-diameter cricket court fields between each cluster of two fields.
“I’ve never been so excited to see two circles on a map followed by the statement that said ‘and a cricket pitch in the middle.’ That was music to my ears,” said Karun Krishnaswami, with the Atlanta Cricket League. “Having said that, we really do appreciate accommodating us here. I was in a conversation yesterday and told … one in three students at Lambert High School happens to be of South Asian or Indian origin, so this is not only for us old guys but the future cricketers coming up.”
The park will also include shelters, natural areas, two sand volleyball courts, playgrounds, an event plaza with a seasonal interactive fountain and more than 500 parking spaces scattered throughout.
In March 2018, Forsyth County Commissioners approved the purchase of about 57 acres at 500 Windy Hill Drive for $5.9 million from Kay W. Veal and 23 acres on Mullinax Road for about $2.4 million from Mullinax Road, LLC and Jay Land.
In addition to hearing from the consultants and the community, members of the parks board also discussed funding sources for the park and how building the new park would rank among other projects.
Funding for park projects has become an issue recently, including some heated discussion by commissioners, as park projects have been more expensive than projected while at the same time revenue streams from SPLOST and impact fees have been lower than expected as residential building has slowed down.
Brian Yearwood, who represents the area of the park, said the board was apolitical and looked at the entire county’s needs when making recommendations. He said he felt at least the turf fields should move ahead quickly since the area would soon be losing popular soccer fields at the Polo Fields to development.
“The only thing I’m pushing for right now is those four rectangular fields. We desperately need that now,” he said.
Another debate that has gone through the commissioners is whether or not to put a bond referendum on the November ballot, which had previously been discussed. At a recent meeting, District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said it was a long process to put together the county’s last parks bond and she had asked on Facebook whether people would support such a bond, with the majority of the responses against it.
Yearwood said that social media often attracted negative responses and said voters should decide whether the bond happens or not.
“A bond would solve the problem, and I think it is a disservice not to put it on the ballot and let voters decide,” he said. “I don’t think the five [commissioners] should decide this. I think it should be put out.”
Members of the board said they should also talk with officials with various booster clubs in the county to see what projects are at the top of their lists.
County officials previously estimated that for a $100 million bond, a home valued at $350,000 would pay an additional $60 per year and $400,000 home would pay about $75.
Forsyth County voters approved a $100 million parks, recreation and greenspace bond in 2008, which funded a variety of projects including Matt Community and Lanierland parks.