CUMMING — Residents who enjoy Forsyth County’s natural amenities have a new destination to add to their list with the opening Friday of the third phase of Sawnee Mountain Preserve.
During a ribbon-cutting event, Mary Helen McGruder with the Sawnee Mountain Foundation shared how the efforts to save the landmark feature have spanned more than 25 years. She thanked county officials past and present, but most significantly her father.
“I grew up on Pilgrim Mill Road,” McGruder said. “We would sit on the front porch in rocking chairs, and he would say, ‘As long as you can see Sawnee Mountain, you’re safe.’
“We’ve always held that in our hearts. And I think for the people of Forsyth County, we just saved and protected Sawnee Mountain and it will keep us safe.”
The new phase, which cost about $2.3 million to complete, was funded through the parks, recreation and green space bond voters approved in 2008 and 1-cent sales tax money.
The first phase of the preserve project was completed in 2005, with the second following in 2008.
The third phase, which adds several amenities to the area, is accessible at 2505 Bettis Tribble Gap Road.
“When other people ask me what’s so great about Forsyth County and makes our [parks] system unique, I come to a glow and say, ‘We own a mountain,” said Parks Director Jim Pryor. “That’s about the best recreation facility you could ever have.
The phase adds about six more miles in walking trails, and near a new playground and picnic areas are also new restrooms.
Pete Amos, chairman of the Forsyth commission, said the county would continue making improvements to the area.
“We’re not finished yet,” he said. “We’re trying to add more acreage every day.
“Our goal is to probably own 90 percent of this mountain, I hope, one day so we can conserve it for our grandchildren and our kids from here on out so they can enjoy the beauty of this county.”