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Forsyth County News

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A few residents weighed in on the future of Forsyth County’s parks and recreation offerings during two public input meetings this week.

The Tuesday and Wednesday night meetings, held at Sharon Springs and Central parks, drew small groups for discussion on the comprehensive recreation master plan.

The plan, which will cover the years 2012-17, helps determine the type, number and location of future parks, facilities, programs, open space and trails to meet the county’s needs.

At the Tuesday meeting, parks and recreation director Jerry Kinsey questioned whether a small gathering was good or bad.

Resident Kristin Morrissey, who is also a school board member, chose to look on the bright side.

"You could take it as a good sign that you passed so many cars on the way in," Morrissey said. "They’re out there enjoying the park."

At both meetings, the sights and sounds of people walking on exercise trails and practicing sports provided the backdrop.

Bob Betz of AICP, the consultant for the plan, said much has changed since 1998, when he began working with Forsyth County on the updates.

"We had a handful of parks in Forsyth County, and now take a look at what [Kinsey] has accomplished over the years," Betz said. "Staff has expanded. You’ve got lots of new land. You’ve been very fortunate when compared to other cities and counties in Georgia to be able to buy land to develop for parks and recreation facilities."

Providing population-based standards, Betz said the county has about 6.25 acres of useable park land for every 1,000 people.

When including undeveloped land that’s in the plans for parks, that number increases to 11 acres, exceeding the county-set standard of 10 acres.

The county’s most recent recreational land purchases came through the 2008 voter-approved $100 million bond for parks, recreation and green space.

The planned green space parks and areas were a popular topic among those at the meetings.

Jack Gleason, founder of Friends of Caney Creek, expressed concern for the environmental sensitivity of the Harrison site.

"What we need to do is preserve the green space, especially on that property," Gleason said.

He applauded the county for creating more natural park opportunities, especially in south Forsyth, where development has occurred more quickly.

Matt Pate, the county’s outdoor recreation manager, said several miles of natural trails should open at the green space parks within two or three years.

North Forsyth resident Felicity O’Neal said she’s looking forward to more natural, unpaved trails where she can walk her dog.

"At Fowler Park, I was staggered by the amount of buildings and concrete," said O’Neal, who attended the meeting Wednesday at Central Park.

At Sharon Springs, residents praised the county for opening Fowler Park earlier this year.

It is a bit of a drive for them, but Chris Agisotelis said his family frequents the park, even if just to walk on the trail.

"Fowler Park is without a doubt one of the coolest things I’ve seen," Agisotelis said.

As a lacrosse coach, he also said the park has provided some much needed space for the rapidly growing youth sport.

Betz thanked the few attendees for providing their input.

"The purpose of this is to have you folks tell us what you’d like to see," he said. "If you build what you want to do, people don’t use the facilities."

In forming the plan, Betz has also created an online survey, which he said has drawn more than 700 responses. It will be available for a few more weeks.

Betz and parks and recreation staff plan to present the draft of the comprehensive recreation master plan to the county commission sometime in October.