Gerry McGinley held a blue sticker in his right hand and surveyed the poster board. On it were dozens of suggestions for improvements or additions to Caney Creek Preserve in south Forsyth.
McGinley and his daughter, Maggie, were the last to attend Thursday’s open house meeting at the Old Atlanta Recreation Center with officials from the Forsyth County Parks and Recreation department and representatives from the Charlotte office of Benesch, an engineering design firm headquartered in Chicago, to let residents provide input on potential updates to the park.
The site for Caney Creek Preserve was purchased as part of the county’s $100 million parks, recreation and green space bond, which voters approved in 2008. Four years later, the 63-acre park opened at 2755 Caney Road with several playground features, two picnic pavilions, a dog park and 1.2 miles of walking trails.
The surrounding area has since undergone dramatic development, and there’s the potential for more. Fuqua Development, an Atlanta-based mixed-use development firm, has proposed Brookwood Quarters, an ambitious and controversial project on 76 acres right next to Caney Creek Preserve that would include 29 residential lots, 129 attached residential lots, 250 apartments and more than 300,000 square feet of commercial buildings.
All those changes meant Caney Creek was due for an upgrade, said Jim Pryor, director of Forsyth County Parks and Recreation, and funds became available when the county finished SPLOST VII A-list projects with money to spare.
“With the development changing so much in the area, we wanted to go back out to the residents to get their feedback to make sure we build what the demand is,” Pryor said.
Most residents indicated they want improvements made to Caney Creek’s existing trails and playground while also adding an outdoor amphitheater, environmental education center, scenic overlook at the park’s “sunset terrace” and more trails.
Virtually any idea was on the table Thursday night, said Jeff Ashbaugh, a project manager with Benesch. The public’s input provided Benesch’s team with information to consider as they design the next master plan for Caney Creek, Ashbaugh said. The county is expected to build at least the first phase of it, according to Pryor.
As for Gerry McGinley, he eventually decided where to put his blue sticker, and his choice was no surprise to daughter Maggie.
“You chose community garden, didn’t you?” she said.