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Plan for new park on Lake Lanier in north Forsyth divisive

NORTH FORSYTH — Plans for a new park on Lake Lanier left north Forsyth residents feeling anything but relaxed Monday night.

In fact, there was a general lack of consensus on what features the proposed Wildcat Creek Park should have or whether the recreation site should even be built.

Nearly every suggested feature — from a boat ramp and building to a beach and pavilion — drew strong emotions of support and opposition from the some 45 people who gathered for the public meeting in the Coal Mountain Park Community Building.

Of the five proposed park locations to which Forsyth County received access from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a 2012 legal settlement, the 28-acre site at the end of Crystal Cove Trail is the only one being considered for development.

Wildcat and the other possible park sites were part of an agreement with the corps and the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta that brought the years-long Bethel Park litigation to a close.

The YMCA has since moved forward with its long-held plans to develop a youth summer camp facility on 62 acres on three of Bethel’s peninsulas.

Since the county would be leasing the other park sites from the corps, only amenities that pertain to the lake or the outdoors can be considered. That means no ball fields or tennis courts.

District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, who represents the area and led the meeting along with county parks and planning staff, said her plan for the park included a building that could be used for educational purposes and the sheriff’s office, a walking trail and playgrounds.

“My vision is for it to be extremely kid friendly, a place that is protected that has a sheriff’s presence that is there all the time, that would be a place where you would have a lot of classes … you would have a playground you would have walking trails, ” she said.

Mills said that she would like to see area be used to limit some of the existing problems in the area. She also was interested in pursuing road improvements, which were among the concerns raised by residents.

“We’ve got some issues with particular areas in the county,” Mills said. “We have some behavior issues, we have some dropout rate issues and we can tell you where some of the issues are.”

Whether a park would remedy those issues appeared to be a matter of opinion. Many in attendance were critical of the plan, contending the residential road could not support the traffic such a park would create. They also said the area no longer deserved a rough reputation.

Of the suggestions, nature-centered activities such as a walking trail appeared to have some support.

As the meeting broke up, residents were encouraged to fill out comment cards on the proposal. Their input will be used as the county develops a master plan for the site.