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YMCA plans youth leadership institute
Work likely years off, but activities set for summer at Bethel Park
Bethel WEB 1
Though the site hasnt been further developed, the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta plans to begin youth activities there this summer. - photo by File photo


The YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta intends to move forward with its plans for youth activities this summer at a lakeside park in northeastern Forsyth.

Dan Pile, senior vice president of operations, said the organization will also launch a fundraising campaign to pay for a new project at the 62-acre Bethel Park site.

“The facility by and large will remain what we’ve always said,” Pile explained. “The program, though, is going to be even more bold and more significant than what we originally planned in that we intend to create a progressive youth leadership development institute.”

The park on Lake Lanier was at the center of a years-long legal battle between Forsyth County, the YMCA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

As a result of a settlement agreement last year, the YMCA secured Bethel while the county received six Lake Lanier parks owned by the corps. It has five years to submit master plans for developing them.

They cover 371 acres and include Athens and Six Mile Creek parks. The deal also includes Chestatee Bay, Rocky Point, Wildcat Creek and the fourth peninsula of Bethel Park, all of which are undeveloped areas.

The YMCA had sought since 2003 to develop a facility at Bethel to serve what was referred to in court documents as inner city youth and “other camping youths.”

The corps expected to lease the site to the organization in 2006. But in response to residents’ concerns, the county sought to lease it and submitted a competing plan in 2007.

In February 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals denied the county’s request to stop the development of the site.

According to Pile, the YMCA is developing a program that will identify children at early ages and offer them leadership opportunities throughout all of the organization’s Atlanta programs. The emphasis at Bethel will be on creating “cause-driven leaders.”

“In other words, lead with a purpose,” Pile said. “Develop lifelong commitments to serving others and identifying important social causes that are relevant in their lives and commit to them.”

He added that programs at Bethel will teach cause-driven leadership, particularly as it relates to environmental sensitivity.

He said it may be several years before the YMCA has raised enough money to begin construction at the park, though the nonprofit does plan to begin running outdoor programs there this summer.

“The uniqueness of the facility as it exists offers tremendous opportunities for kids to participate in projects and retreats and adventure,” said Pile, adding that not only are sailing, canoeing, kayaking and other lake activities available, but the site also offers environmental education opportunities.