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Panel prioritizes field conversion
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Forsyth County News

Group gets greenway update

Also during its meeting Wednesday, the Forsyth County Parks Committee received on update on plans to extend the Big Creek Greenway.

The next phase will add about 2.8 miles to the trail from its current end at Bethelview Road to near where Kelly Mill and Johnson roads meet.

Tim Allen, assistant director of engineering, said the right of way needed for phase 4 has been acquired, with the exception of one property owner.

Another realignment of the trail’s path seems likely before construction will begin, Allen said.

“I think realistically, we’re looking at close to the end of the year before everything will be revised and we’re ready to go out for bidding,” he said.

The construction costs are estimated at about $2.8 million, which will come from the 2008 voter-approved $100 million parks, recreation and green space bond.

Parking for the new phase remains an issue.

Many proposals have been made for a trailhead and parking lot at the Johnson Road temporary end, Allen said, but no space has been finalized.

The end of phase 4 is temporary, because the planned 5.5-mile phase 5 will eventually extend the greenway to Sawnee Mountain.

Turf fields have become a top priority for the Forsyth County Parks Committee.

The two-commissioner and staff panel reviewed available sales tax funding and its best uses during a meeting Wednesday.

About $2 million of the $11 million designated for the parks department from the current 1-cent sales tax program remains to be spent or assigned to projects.

The committee agreed to prioritize replacing fields with synthetic turf at Coal Mountain, Fowler, Joint Venture and Sawnee Mountain parks.

At the same time, the county will work to see if a deal can be reached with the local school district to put in turf fields on their property in exchange for use on weekends and evenings.

Commissioner Brian Tam, who represents densely populated south Forsyth, said the demand for rectangular athletic fields continues to increase.

“Our phone is ringing on these rectangle fields,” Tam said. “It’s only going to get worse unless we get started now.”

Converting grass fields to turf allows extra use because the field doesn’t wear down, said Jerry Kinsey, director of parks and recreation.

“It reduces your maintenance, and it increases your time on the field for teams,” Kinsey said.

Tam said the conversion would cost less and provide relief quicker than looking for more space and adding fields.

“Let’s get what we have turfed if we can,” he said.

Commissioner Todd Levent suggested also reviewing Midway Park to see if the upper field could be replaced with turf.

The smaller space and need for a retaining wall could extend the design process, so Levent decided to hold off on that for now.

Tam pointed to the success of Joint Venture Park in sharing space with the schools, and noted that installing turf at schools could cut out prior roadblocks in creating a partnership.

Kinsey said the schools require a restroom facility and lights if a field will be shared with recreational sports.

Previously, agreements could not be reached because the county and school system could not settle on who would be responsible for maintenance and other associated costs, he said.

Those discussions may take some time, so the replacement of existing fields took priority.

If the bids to install turf fields are put out quickly, the work could be done in the winter off-season and ready for spring, Kinsey said.

The committee’s recommendation will next go to the parks and recreation board for review and then to the full county commission.

The funding for the fields could come from remaining 1-cent sales tax revenue, or other sources.

Additional projects also proposed for the remaining sales tax money included replacing the playground equipment at Central Park, repaving the parking lots at Sharon Springs Park and installing a trailhead for the Big Creek Greenway at Union Hill Road.