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Forsyth County developing 10-year plan for public parks
3WEB still under construction
Lanierland Park. - photo by Jim Dean

Forsyth County parks by the numbers

19 of 25 parks recommended for improvements
300,000 estimated Forsyth County population by 2026
More than 2,700 acres of park land
10 miles of greenway in the county
3 new recreation centers recommended
$19 million needed for improvements to existing parks
8 major community-driven recommendations

A new plan for Forsyth County parks is going to the Board of Commissioners.

Last week, the Forsyth County Parks Board and Parks Commission held a joint meeting to review the new comprehensive master plan for county parks, which is being done by Benesch Engineering and Ron Vine and Associates, and approved the plan for commission review.

After community input, planners had eight major recommendations for county parks.

They were:
• Making the Big Creek Greenway a priority over the next decade and aiming to develop 30 miles of trails
• Acquiring more than 1,000 acres over the next 10 years
• Prioritizing lake parks
• Adding three new recreation centers
• Expanding amenities for seniors in new and existing recreation centers
• Improving sports fields
• Balancing improving parks, acquiring open space and developing trails and facilities
• Taking advantage of citizen input that they would support additional tax funding for projects important to them

To create the update, planners did an inventory of outdoor and indoor recreation facilities and greenways in the county, as well as parks facilities for the city of Cumming and the Army Corps of Engineers.

They also met with more than 20 stakeholders, held four focus group sessions and did three public workshops and performed a community survey.

“Overall, all people in the county were pleased with your existing park system, although as the findings from the survey show, there is very strong demand for adding both parks and youth facilities,” said Derek Williams, with Benesch Engineering.

The importance of greenways was based off the survey, where 55 percent of responders said walking and biking trails are one of the four most important things to them.

“More people said walking and biking trails is their first choice than the sum of the top four choices in anything else,” said Ron Vine, with Ron Vine and Associates.

The plan also recommends about $19 million for capital improvements and land acquisition for existing parks and about $46 million for major park renovations and expansions.

If all improvements identified in the plan are approved — including major plans such as an arts center, new lake park developments and an aquatic facility — the plan is estimated at more than $343 million.

Williams said improvements will be needed as the county is slated for a continue growing in the next 10 years.

“In 2026, the population of this county will be 300,000,” he said. “That’s almost 100,000 new people moving to Forsyth County in the next decade … In essence, you will be building a new city in the next 10 years here, so we need to provide parks and recreation facilities for that new city.