Oconee County Parks and Recreation Department last week began using Autry Road as a second exit from Oconee Veterans Park on an experimental basis to see if it helps relieve traffic during peak periods at the park.
Traffic on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays during the 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. period will be allowed to exit the park via the back gate, which feeds onto Autry Road and then Hodges Mill Road.
“It is a trial season to determine if it helps our citizens with exiting the park during these high volumes traffic times,” said Lisa D. Davol, director of the Oconee County Parks and Recreation Department.
Members of the Oconee County Citizens Advisory Committee on Recreational Affairs, at their last meeting on July 18, raised concerns about the impact of construction of three news multi-use fields at Oconee Veterans Park on traffic at the park.
|Gate At Rear Of Park|
Prior to Monday, the park has utilized only the entrance and exit on Hog Mountain Road, except in rare occasions such as for the July 4 fireworks events.
The primary park entrance is across from Herman C. Michael Park, but there is no connection between the two parks. Elder Road, which provides access to Herman C. Michael Park, does not line up with the entrance to Oconee Veterans Park.
During peak periods of the evening, when sporting events start and stop, traffic builds up at the entrance to Veterans Park.
Hog Mountain Road is a state route, and the state so far has not allowed a traffic light at Elder Road or at the entrance to Oconee Veterans Park.
The Sheriff’s Office does provide officers to help with traffic flow.
The citizens on the Advisory Committee on Recreational Affairs have called for a more permanent solution, including a second entrance and exit.
The new sports fields won't be open until the end of next year, but the problem is severe even without those fields, committee members have said.
Beyond the fields, the main road through the park turns to gravel and then twists and turns between stormwater retention facilities.
|One-Lane Bridge Near Mitigation Area|
It also crosses two creeks, with one of those bridges clearly marked for single-lane traffic.
One of those creeks–at the picnic tables--has been used by the county for mitigation of the destruction of Hard Labor Creek in Walton County for construction of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir.
The restrictions placed on that land could have impact on future improvements to roadway through the park.
Hodges Mill Road
Emil Beshara, Oconee County Public Works director, told me on Friday that the county upgraded the intersection of Autry Road and Hodges Mill Road earlier this summer in anticipation of the traffic on July 4 and of possible use of the road as an exit in the future.
The county continues to work with the state to try to get a traffic signal at the main entrance to the park on Hog Mountain Road, he said.
“We are utilizing the OVP back gate as an exit” during the specified times, Davol wrote to me in an email on Friday. She called the action “an attempt to relieve some of the traffic issues experienced with the volume of program participants and park patrons during those times.”
The trial is scheduled to end on Oct. 31.