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Bethel Park: Is fighting on worth the cost?
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Forsyth County News
The great Battle of Bethel Park seems destined to play out on the legal battlefield into the next decade, but for now the county’s forces look to have been outflanked.

To the surprise of county officials, the Army Corps of Engineers in September signed a lease with the YMCA for use of the park, an action the county had hoped to prevent from happening.

That the lease was signed by the Corps indicates that it refused to accept the county’s proposal that the park should be leased to the county rather than the YMCA. That it was without knowledge of county officials, who received notification in a letter announcing the lease received after it had been signed, shows an apparent disdain for local leadership by the federal overseers of Lake Lanier.

The legal wrangling over the park has been ongoing for a couple of years. The YMCA’s plans to lease the closed park and use it for summer camps and group events became news in 2006. County officials, spurred by residents in the area opposed to the plan, then sought to garner their own lease with the Corps.

Corps officials said repeated previous attempts to interest the county in the park had fallen on deaf ears, which is why it was dealing with the YMCA. County officials said that wasn’t the case.

The two sides wrangled into the courts, where the county filed a request for an injunction, which later was dismissed so the sides could negotiate the dispute.

Now a lease has been signed and the negotiation process apparently is at an end, since decisions are being made by two of the three parties without the knowledge of the third. And again the county is seeking an injunction to stop the YMCA.

There are issues within issues in this debate, few of them easily resolved. Area residents worry about roads and traffic, and they are right to do so. The roads serving the park aren’t sufficient for an influx of new traffic.

Corps officials want something to be done with the valuable recreational shoreline, and are reluctant to say “no” to a reputable group with a vision.

County officials have said they want to operate the park, but recent financial realities make you wonder at the viability of doing so. In truth, the county’s effort has always seemed more directed at stopping the Y than acquiring more parkland.

The Corps closed Bethel Park because it couldn’t afford to operate it. The county wants it, but has dire financial problems of its own. When the two square off yet again in court, it will be local tax dollars vs. federal tax dollars, with the ultimate outcome impacting a nonprofit.

There are some battles that just aren’t worth the expense of fighting. Given current economic conditions, county officials have to decide if this is one of them.