Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dolvin Foundation Considering Plans For Recreational And Educational Facility On Land Surrounding Oconee County’s Elder Mill Bridge

Mill Essential Component

Trustees for the Elizabeth Price Dolvin Foundation are exploring the possibility of creating an Oconee County environmental and heritage center modeled after a similar facility in Gwinnett County.

The facility would be on Elder Mill Road and incorporate property owned by the late Elizabeth Price Dolvin surrounding the iconic Elder Mill Bridge.

“There’s nothing for us to say about it right now other than that we are in conversations with Oconee County about an environmental and heritage center,” trustee Ray B. Burruss Jr., an Athens attorney, said last week.

Burruss did say that Elder Mill itself, which is not owned by the Dolvin Foundation, is an “integral” part of the planning and the county will need to acquire the mill and the 6-acre property on which it sits for the plan to be realized.

Conversation With County

Oconee County Parks and Recreation Director John Gentry told me last week that Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis had been approached by representatives of the Dolvin Foundation in the spring of this year.

Click To Enlarge

Davis referred the trustees to Gentry, and Gentry said he presented a number of options, including development of a heritage and environmental center similar to the one in Gwinnett County. The center is west of the Mall of Georgia between I-85 and I-985.

The Center’s web site says the facility’s “mission is to transform the concepts of science and history into interactive, learn-by-doing experiences that will encourage a visitor’s natural curiosity and sense of wonder about themselves and the world around them.”

The Center has exhibits, including a mill, trails, education programs, a daycare program, and facility rentals.

Foundation Properties

In addition to other properties around the county, the Dolvin Foundation owns nearly 320 acres on both sides of Elder Mill Road stretching from SR 15 to beyond the Elder Mill Bridge.

Elder Mill Bridge

Burruss said current plans assume only a part of that property would be incorporated into the environmental and heritage center.

At least four other properties, including the one on which the mill sits, are owned by other parties.

The mill property is owned by Ann Morgan of Athens.

The mill is extremely well preserved, sitting just down Little Rose Creek from the bridge named after it.

The bridge was built in 1897 and carried the Watkinsville-Athens road (now north Main Street) across Calls Creek. The bridge was moved to its present location in 1924.

Concept Plan

Gentry and others in the county have long had an interest in incorporating the land around the bridge and mill into a park.

Williams and Associates, a local land planning firm, drew a conceptual plan for what was called Elder Mill Park in 2007.

That plan incorporated all of the Dolvin property, the mill, and other properties in the area surrounding the mill and bridge.

Nothing has been done since that time to realize the plans.

Creation Of Foundation

Dolvin passed away in May of 2012. Her husband, James Dolvin, had died in 1980.

Burruss said Dolvin left her assets to the foundation on her death.

The first 990 IRS Tax form for a private foundation I was able to find for the Dolvin Foundation was for 2010.

Burruss and John H. Murphy Jr. of Canton are foundation trustees.

Discussions Underway

Burruss said he had met both with Davis and with incoming BOC Chair John Daniell.

Daniell confirmed to me that he has been involved in the discussions.

Burruss said he wants to explore corporate as well as government funding for the project.

“We’re in the planning stage,” he said, “and we’re trying to get the interested parties together.”


Anonymous said...

Why on earth would anyone want to take such beautiful land and turn it into monstrosity that Gwinnett did with that park. Green space should be just that, green.

rightway1974 said...

The goal is to make Oconee just like Gwinnett. The Oconee that I grew up in is gone forever. It's on a fast track downhill in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Only the idea of a "history and environmental education facility" comes from Gwinnett. Not the behemoth they constructed. A much different approach. The intent of the trust is to maintain the natural state of the current land as much as possible and blend any new structures with the environment and historical structures (keeping a rustic appeal). All conceptual at this point. It will be a way for citizens to enjoy the land more in its natural state to include trails, fishing, working mill, etc.

conserver said...

This is a terrible idea. The neighbors oppose this "development". Rose creek shouldn't be turned into any kind of tourist attraction that requires additional resources to support plans that are morphing into an amusement park. "At least four other properties, including the one on which the mill sits, are owned by other parties." Eminent domain anyone?