On Wednesday, the Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Board tentatively approved master plans for a $4.5 million project to expand and revitalize Caney Creek Preserve in south Forsyth.
At Wednesday’s board meeting, Jeff Ashbaugh, a consultant with the engineering design firm Benesch, presented a master plan of the revitalization project to board members and a group of local residents, explaining that the preserve’s new design had been created through several meetings and public workshops with county staff, community members and local stakeholders.
Ashbaugh stated that from those meetings, they created a project that gave people what they needed or wanted out of the greenspace, while maintaining the untouched natural feel that the park was founded on.
“We heard that message and it was very intentional to not mess with it, because it works. It’s people’s place to have relaxation,” Ashbaugh said. “The existing facilities are in generally very good condition and well maintained, but there are parts of the preserve where there’s a little bit of wear showing, like the dog park.”
According to master plan documents, preserve improvements will include new natural and paved walking trails, additions of native wildflowers and grasses to beautify landscapes, a new “hill top play meadow” playground area, outdoor classrooms for local schools and groups, an expanded dog park area, a covered stage and space for a seasonal farmers market, as well as a possible community center for the preserve’s west side.
Board member Joe Brown, representing District 2, said he was happy with how the design came together and how the redesign added uses to the preserve while protecting the land.
“This is a treasure, and I think that the community response to this has been something that I’m very proud of,” Brown said.
The site for Caney Creek Preserve was purchased as part of the county’s $100 million parks, recreation and green space bond, which voters approved in 2008. Four years later, the 63-acre park opened at 2755 Caney Road with several playground features, two picnic pavilions, a dog park and 1.2 miles of walking trails.
The surrounding area has since undergone dramatic development, and there’s the potential for more.
Fuqua Development, an Atlanta-based mixed-use development firm, has proposed Brookwood Quarters, an ambitious and controversial project on 76 acres right next to Caney Creek Preserve that would include 29 residential lots, 129 attached residential lots, 250 apartments and more than 300,000 square feet of commercial buildings.
After seeing Ashbaugh’s presentation, one resident said that she had come to the meeting expecting to oppose the plan, but after seeing the different uses it added and the features it preserved, she was hopeful.
“I go here with my daughter as often as we can ... and it’s one of the few places in the area where I feel like she can just go on a hiking trail that’s not crowded, that’s not full of people, where she can just explore,” she said. “So I really do like what I’m seeing.”
After the discussion between residents and board members, the board voted unanimously to approve the plan in two phases. The first phase will encompass the land’s developments and improvements, while the second phase will cover the community center, if further review proves it to be needed.
This master plan will be presented to the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners at their meeting on June 25.
Brian Paglia contributed to this report.