It’s an exciting time for Cherokee County Parks. The program recently achieved national accreditation, following a two-year effort to meet requirements for that honor. Even better, the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association just named the Cherokee parks program No. 1 in all large counties in Georgia!
The parks program has grown dramatically since voter approval of a $90 million bond issue in 2010. The facilities now include 67 ball fields, 34 picnic pavilions, 32 tennis and pickleball courts, 17 playgrounds, 41-plus miles of trails, an indoor recreation complex, a world-class mountain bike park and a fabulous aquatics center.
And, it’s still growing. “The Buzz,” a new indoor recreation facility, is under construction at Veterans Park in the Macedonia Community, funded from the last of the park bond proceeds and a mix of other sources. It should open by year’s end. Additionally, the historic Hickory Flat Elementary gym is being renovated as a recreation and community center, and multi-purpose trails are being built along Towne Lake Parkway.
Conceptual designs were completed last year for parks on three properties in southwest Cherokee. Funds are in place for Phase 1 construction on the first one, on Highway 92 at Hunt Road. It’s planned for mostly passive uses, with a playground, open spaces, picnic pavilion and trails. It will be adjacent to a commercial and restaurant area planned by the Cherokee Office of Economic Development as a way to energize that corner of the county. Another park is planned on Kellogg Creek Road, near Old Alabama Road. Mostly passive, it will include exciting features, such as an elevated tree walk.
Three parks in northeast Cherokee are in the conceptual design process. One, to be named Cochran Park, is adjacent to the current and future sites of Free Home Elementary. It includes a lake that will remain as a scenic and fishing attraction. Walking trails, open space and a disc golf course are being considered.
A 500-acre parcel on Yellow Creek Road at the Etowah River will be developed with trails, river access and a second major bike park. A smaller tract at the intersection of Long Swamp Creek and the Etowah River, near Ball Ground, once the site of an Indian mound, will include an interpretive center for the Native American era, as well as an access point for the river. A 125-acre site a couple of miles down river is being held for future park development.
A 40-acre site, north of the Hickory Flat business district, is under contract to purchase as a future park. Specific plans are not yet developed. It could include passive and/or active uses, such as ball fields.
Some of the funding for park development will come from the county’s impact fee program, but most will come from SPLOST, if voters extend that program in November. Park operations and maintenance are funded mostly from alcohol taxes and user fees. Very little property tax revenue is used for parks.
As always, I’m interested in your thoughts on these and other matters. Email me at email@example.com.
– Harry Johnston is chairman of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners. He’s a retired CPA and accounting manager, and a former district commissioner.