Did you know?
• The new park spans 109 acres and features concessions, picnic pavilions, a playground and four rectangular fields
• A groundbreaking ceremony was held in March 2016
• Until 2006, Lanierland Music Park sat on the property and hosted some of country music’s biggest names, including Hank Williams Jr., Johnny Cash, Alabama and George Jones
• Forsyth County purchased the land in 2009
• The park will be the new home for youth lacrosse and football programs
North Forsyth has a new park, and much of the north Forsyth community was out to celebrate.
On Wednesday, Forsyth County held a ribbon cutting ceremony to open the new Lanierland Park on Jot Em Down Road, named for the former country music venue on the land. The 109-acre park offers concessions, picnic pavilions, a playground and four rectangular fields lined for football, soccer and lacrosse.
“People from the north end have had to drive long distances to be able to play those sports, so we’re happy to be able to offer them,” District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said, “and hopefully it’ll help with transportation problems because we’ll have cars travelling less distance.”
Both the football program at Bennett Park and the north Forsyth lacrosse youth program will play at Lanierland.
Mills said the park was needed in the area and that several north Forsyth schools and local community groups participated in the opening.
“Today we had Silver City [Elementary], their whole chorus, singing the national anthem. We had [North Forsyth High School’s] JROTC bring in the flags. We had Creative Enterprises here and their clients did the Pledge. Then we had Chestatee [Elementary] chorus sing ‘God Bless the USA,’” Mills said, “which was especially gratifying and significant because Lee Greenwood performed ‘God Bless the USA’ on the stage at Lanierland.”
North Forsyth High School’s JoAnn Ahn read the poem ‘New Beginnings” by Gertrude B. McClain.
The new playground also offers a swinging boat-like ride that is accessible to wheelchair users, which was used quickly by residents of Creative Enterprises, a program for adults with special needs who are too old to attend public school.
“I think the playground here is so special because it is an all-inclusive playground,” Mills said. “That’s why I wanted Creative Enterprises here today; that’s what makes this park, this playground so special, that it’s something all kids can enjoy.
In its heyday, Lanierland hosted famous musicians Hank Williams Jr., Johnny Cash, Alabama, George Jones and many others. The park closed in 2006, and the land was purchased in 2009 by the county with funds from the Parks, Recreation and Green Space Bond.
Beyond representing the area, Mills has a deeper connection to Lanierland, where her father was a partner at the park. Mills said she worked at the venue, from selling concessions as a child to serving as general manager.
“It was really sad when Lanierland closed because 36 years of my life was spent working at Lanierland, seeing country music stars, and just the closing of the park back when it closed in 2004 was a really sad thing for my family,” she said. “Those season-ticket holders were like family.
“It was such a family atmosphere; there was never alcohol served there … Families would let their kids run just like I’m watching the kids run on the playground.”
Mills said she still receives calls from residents asking to leave the music park’s still-standing sign up, many of whom don’t know her connection.
The new fields will not have the first sports played at Lanierland.
County resident Hugh Tinsley showed up wearing a 40 year old blue and yellow jersey from Lanierland’s adult softball team, who faced off against teams from Silver City, Coal Mountain, Haw Creek and others in the Forsyth County league. Tinsley said he was happy to see the park open.
“That’s amazing,” Tinsley said. “And it’ll be even better when they get the next two phases done and have baseball fields, which is what I’m interested in.”
Mills said The Oak Ridge Boys would even play games after the shows with workers on the music park’s softball field.
Construction of the park was done by Reeves Young for about $9.2 million.
Future phases of the park will create baseball fields, a recreation center and splash pad, though development will depend on future funding.
The park took about a year to complete after a groundbreaking ceremony was held in March 2016.
“One year ago, we were standing a little ways over this way on a beautiful day like today. Wwe all grabbed shovels and threw dirt all over the place,” Parks and Recreation Director Jim Pryor said. “Today, we get to stand in front of a ribbon and open this park to the community for many great years of use.”