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Panel reviews parks plans
New committee holds first meeting
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Forsyth County News

Plans for a couple of parks moved forward Wednesday during the first meeting of the Forsyth County parks and recreation committee.

The two-commissioner and staff committee will review department plans before passing recommendations onto the parks and recreation board, which is made up of five county residents.

Commissioners Todd Levent and Brian Tam serve on the committee, though Tam wasn’t able to attend Wednesday’s meeting.

Staff members and a hired planner presented possible future developments for Eagles Beak, Sawnee Mountain Preserve and Lanierland.

Eagles Beak, a future park in the county’s northwest corner, is expected to be home for two established county groups — an archery club and a BMX club.

Both organizations, which are primarily for youth, hope to enter into agreements with the county to share revenue from tournaments in exchange for using the space.

The bicycle racing group also plans to build the dirt track and associated features, which will be open to the public.

The economic impact of holding competitions for archery and BMX could be “huge” for the county, said Anna Barlow, director of tourism for the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.

The park, which was bought with money from the voter-approved $100 parks, recreation and green space bond, will also include a canoe launch into the Etowah River, group camping and nature trails.

Parks director Jerry Kinsey said about $1 million is available in bond funding for the park’s development, which could be completed in early 2014.

The expansion of Sawnee Mountain Preserve could include a public-private partnership by seeking a company to run a zip-line course and rock climbing wall.

The recreational additions could be ways to generate revenue without too much investment from Forsyth, said Matt Pate, the county’s outdoor recreation division manager.

“We’re talking about leasing unusable space in the air,” Pate said.

Levent recommended moving forward with the plans for those two parks, but thought it best to wait on developing Lanierland, which has had two different conceptual plans.

The first concept featured an active park with four rectangle fields and complexes for baseball and tennis.

The second plan removed the tennis component and two fields in exchange for a regional equestrian park.

With no community consensus on which way to go and the money not yet bonded, Levent suggested waiting on the northeastern Forsyth park.

Also at the meeting, Levent recommended making permanent a temporary Union Hill Road trailhead for the Big Creek Greenway and renovating the playground and restrooms at Central Park.

The committee’s next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 26, will focus on the budget for park developments.