NORTH FORSYTH — Nearly three years after gaining the rights to six park sites on Lake Lanier, Forsyth County appears ready to begin the planning process for four of them.
Tommy Bruce, the county’s interim parks and recreation director, said the plans will be for the Athens, Chestatee Bay and Wildcat Creek sites, along with a fourth lake peninsula in the Bethel area.
Master plans and environmental assessments must be submitted by 2016 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, although extensions can be granted.
The corps will then work with the county through the permitting process and lease the parks for no less than 25 years.
The county secured the parks as part of a settlement agreement with the corps and the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta that brought the years-long Bethel Park litigation to a close in January 2012. The other two sites are Rocky Point and Six Mile. Together, the six properties cover 371 acres.
Chestatee Bay, Rocky Point, Wildcat Creek and the fourth Bethel peninsula are undeveloped.
The Bethel peninsula is the one that will not be developed by the YMCA, which has moved forward with its long-held plans for a youth summer camp facility on 62 acres on the other three peninsulas.
During a parks board meeting Tuesday night, Bruce said the main issue will be funding for the sites. One-cent sales tax revenue and impact fee funds are possible sources.
“Right now we don’t have the money,” Bruce said. “We’ll get [the areas] master planned and see what kind of money it’s going to cost to build the parks.”
Board member Gary Cooper, who represents District 4, which includes the sites, said the areas are not near any other county-owned properties.
“[The parks in those areas] are either run by the corps … or a private entity like the YMCA … or they just don’t exist,” Cooper said.
Public meetings likely will be held to help determine what features the parks should have.
“We’ll get input from the public about what they’d like to see,” Bruce said. “It could be anywhere from hiking trails to camping to … just nature parks.”
The Chestatee Bay site is near a neighborhood. Rocky Point and Six Mile will probably be master planned at a later date, Bruce said.
In the end, the county commission has the final say on the parks.
“They may decide to do all six, they may decide to go with the four we decided or they may decide not to take those properties at all,” Cooper said. “The ultimate decision rests with them. [The parks and recreation board’s] advice is to go with the four that we chose.”
Also during the meeting Tuesday night, resident Rahul Umbarkar asked the board about the possibility of building a cricket field at one of the county’s parks.
The board advised him to form a booster club and contact a local school about using its facility.
Parks and recreation board District 1 representative Todd Holbrook said the board would be available to answer any questions. “We’re here to help any way that we can.”