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Big plans for northern greenspace sites
Ideas include hobbies, outdoor adventures
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Forsyth County News


Homes for hobbies, fields for sports and new outdoor adventures could be coming to some local parks.

The ideas were among the features a design firm unveiled in its plans for three green space properties in north Forsyth.

The Forsyth County commission had previously reviewed plans for four other properties and directed staff to seek pricing in phases and determine the cost of building out the parks as planned.

After Tuesday's presentation, commissioners voted 5-0 to do the same for the three northern sites -- Eagle’s Beak, Lanierland and the third phase of Sawnee Mountain Preserve.

“If we want to keep the ball rolling, I think the thing to do is look at different phases and find out how much it is,” said Chairman Brian Tam.

The commission also gave its approval to the concepts presented by the design firm, Mactec.

The northwestern Eagle’s Beak property, named for the shape carved by the passing Etowah River, drew much interest from community groups during a public participation meeting in April.

Their suggestions -- including a BMX track, archery field, canoe launch and an existing model aviation launch -- were reflected in the plans for the 200-acre site.

Mactec consultant Reggie Dill said the firm has nicknamed the property “the hobby park.”

Only one canoe launch has been proposed, since the topography lends itself to a natural area to put boats in the river, Dill said.

The addition of the launch would link the county to the Etowah Blueway, a series of stops along the river for canoers and kayakers.

The site also includes plans for nature trails, gravel parking lots and a group primitive camping area.

For those who enjoy hiking on trails, the plans for Sawnee Mountain Preserve's third phase include expanding the present paths.

“This is an amazing piece of property that’s unlike some of the other parks presented,” Dill said. “This property … should be treated more like the [Department of Natural Resources] parks. You don’t really load it up with trails because you start to degrade the value.”

Though much of the site likely will be left untouched, a few small touches could provide some big adventures.

The plans call for a canopy zip line and a rock climbing wall near the gravel parking lot.

Both activities could be leased out to private companies for a county revenue source, Dill said.

For those who’d like to stick to the basics, he said the installation of a topography map of the park could also help visitors plan a hike that suits their needs.

The architecturally amazing Barker house at the top of the mountain provides some amazing views of the landscape, Dill said, but the view inside the house isn’t as clear.

The home would need a good bit of renovation to meet code and become ADA compliant, he said.

Commissioners agreed the house sounded like its own separate project and decided to leave it out of plans for the third phase.

The Lanierland site, in the county’s northeastern corner, is home to a once-thriving concert venue.

With some planned renovations, the covered outdoor theater could again become home to entertainers, Dill said.

The 109-acre property was bought with active uses in mind. True to that vision, the site plan calls for five baseball/softball fields, four rectangular fields and a tennis complex, all with lights.

The rectangular fields are the county’s “biggest need” for parks, director Jerry Kinsey said.

A portion of the site likely will also be preserved, with about 1.5 miles of nature trails and open fields.