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Neighbors offer input on green space sites
green space2
Some residents are concerned this stream, which flows through the Echols green space property in south Forsyth, could be disrupted. - photo by Autumn McBride

What's next
A public planning meeting for Forsyth County's northern greenspace properties is set for 7 p.m. April 19 at the Coal Mountain Community Park Building, 3560 Settingdown Road.

Safety, steams and privacy were among the worries voiced during a recent meeting on plans for four green space properties in south Forsyth.

About 100 residents gathered at Lambert High School to hear a presentation about the sites and offer input on what they would like to see.

Mactec, the firm hired by the county, will consider the feedback in designing the Buice, Echols, Harrison and McClure properties.

"It's a launch point to get the creative juices flowing and see what you want to see," said Reggie Dill, Mactec representative.

The firm will design seven park properties total. The other three sites -- Eagle's Beak, Lanierland and the third phase of the Sawnee Mountain Preserve, all in north Forsyth -- will be the focus of an April 19 meeting.

The properties were bought with the county's $100 million parks, recreation and green space bond, which voters approved in 2008.

On March 31, Dill presented a site overlay for each property in south Forsyth, as well as challenges and possible ideas.

The McClure property, about 100 acres along the Chattahoochee River, will need to be protected by buffers, Dill said.

Located across from Lambert High, the Buice property totals about 39 acres and will be home to a future recreation center, for which the county commission has approved construction.

Dill suggested low-impact multi-use trails and picnic tables for the remainder of the area.

The 63-acre Harrison property, on Caney Road north of Brookwood Road, has a stream and many slopes running through it.

The property could be divided into two play areas on either side of the stream, Dill said, with one containing a large playground.

A home on the northern end of the property could also be preserved and used as an educational center, he said.

The Echols Road property, about 85 acres, could incorporate a creek running along its back edge, trails or a future cultural arts center of some type, Dill said.

The streams in both the Echols and Harrison properties drew some concern from attendees.

Neighbors of the Echols property, behind the creek, hoped the stream wouldn't become a feature of the park's design.

Marshanne Mishoe said the residents of a nearby subdivision don't want to see the creek altered from its natural state.

She said her son catches crawdads in the creek, which is a sign of its current health.

"That's one of the most delicate creatures, so it's one of the first things to go," Mishoe said.

She added that safety near the creek was another worry of the neighbors, many of whom were at the meeting.

Her neighbor Steve Gafford added that privacy was also a concern, since their homes back up to the creek.

Looking at the Harrison property map, Jack Gleason said the purpose of a green space property is to preserve the natural habitat.

"People are thinking parks," Gleason said. "We already have parks. This is green space."

He worried about the impact the two potential playgrounds could have on the streams.

During the presentation, Dill said the firm would plan to protect the water sources within the properties.

"It's a really a cool thing to see and preserve and take a look at," he said. "If we're not careful, they will disappear."

Others came to the meeting with more excitement than concern.

Marlene Estorino, who lives near the Echols property, hoped to see a safe walking path to the park from her neighborhood.

She currently must drive a long way to get to the county's parks her family frequents.

"We end up going all over, so the thought of having one in our backyard is big," she said.

A first draft for review should be available within about two or three weeks, said Jerry Kinsey, the county's director of parks and recreation.

A timeline to prepare the properties after the design work has not been determined.