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Sailing program gains momentum in Forsyth County

NORTH FORYSTH — Months after its initial proposal, a possible sailing program on Lake Lanier in Forsyth County appears to be moving forward.

The county’s parks and recreation board recently voted 3-0, with members Kimberly Brown and Todd Holbrook absent, to move forward with the concept.

The idea was pitched in March by retired U.S. Coast Guard Capts. Rob and Judy James.

“After looking at it, I think that staff is recommending that a sailing program would be good in the county,” said Jim Pryor, parks director. “We have a great resource in Lake Lanier. We don’t offer that right now … it’s nice that we have qualified people to start the program.”

Though the county hasn’t officially adopted the proposal, the parks department is looking into ways to possibly secure funding for the project. The department feels that sailing could generate funds through classes.

“Everyone under 18 needs to have … training and we think that’s a niche that this might could fall into and be a revenue generator as well,” said Matt Pate, outdoor program manager. “It’s something that’s definitely there. It’s just flushing out where the funding is at.”

Department officials also said sailing programs work well with science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, programs in schools, and that Forsyth Central High School had recently became STEM accredited.

“We don’t have a sailing program in this area, and [STEM is] one focus that we could go after. It may make securing grants easier,” Pate said.

At the meeting, there also was talk that the program could become a base for high school sailing teams.

If approved, the department would look into potentially buying a boat simulator, which imitates rough and windy boating conditions while still on land. Other possible purchases include boats that work with the simulator and in water and areas to store the equipment and run the program.

As the project is in its early stages, no site has been selected, though several county parks on the lake, including one in northeast Forsyth, were discussed at the meeting.

The department is hoping to secure funding through the county’s 2016 comprehensive plan and grants, and also gauge public interest and opinion on the project.