Monday, July 22, 2019

Watkinsville Wants Input From Users Of Harris Shoals Park As It Considers Major Additions To Facilities

***Survey Not Restricted To Residents***

The city of Watkinsville is seeking input from all users of Harris Shoals Park–not just from residents of the city–as City Council considers proposed major changes for the park.

The survey asks respondents how often they use the park, located off Experiment Station Road, and what kinds of improvements they would like to see at the park.

The Harris Shoals Park Advisory Board Executive Committee designed the survey and is circulating it in the city and county. It also is available online.

At a work session on June 12, Council received a plan from Extra Special People Inc. (ESP) that would convert the existing baseball field to what is called a Miracle League Field and add greatly expanded parking, a splash pad, a concessions and bathroom building, and a recreation pavilion to the front of the park.

Deadline for completing the survey is July 26.

City Council is expected to take up the proposals at its 7 p.m. meeting on Aug. 21 at City Hall.

Harris Shoals

Harris Shoals Park is located on 17.62 core acres surrounding the shoals on Calls Creek.

Conceptual Site Plan Harris Shoals Park (Click To Enlarge)

Included is a baseball field, covered picnic areas and BBQ pavilions, and bathroom facilities.

A trail circles upstream from the shoals and runs along a pond and wetlands. That area is heavily wooded.

The city also owns 6.56 adjoining acres that include City Hall and playgrounds and another 8.64 undeveloped acres at the corner of the exit ramp from U.S. 441 bypass and Experiment Station Road.

Another 19.31 acres between the park and the U.S. 441 bypass are owned by KBB LLC, according to Oconee County tax records, and 2.75 acres are owned by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Robert Bishop, 1111 Limmerick Drive, north of the U.S. 441 bypass, is the registered agent for KBB LLC.

A Harris family cemetery is accessible from U.S. 441 across the KBB property.

Miracle League Design

ESP, which serves children and young adults with developmental disabilities, is located on 1.44 acres at 189 VFW Drive. That site adjoins the park.

That land is owned by Oconee County War Veterans Assoc. Inc., 4241 Greensboro Highway, south of Watkinsville. J. David Williams is CEO, CFO and Secretary of that group, according to county tax records.

At the work session of the Watkinsville City Council on June 12, Sharyn Dickerson, city administrator for Watkinsville, presented what she referred to as a “Proposed Final Conceptual Plan for Miracle League Enhancements in Harris Shoals Park.”

The centerpiece of the concept plan is a Miracle League Field, which is a custom-designed, rubberized turf field.

The concept also includes a 4,700 foot splash pad, a 2,000 square foot dry deck fountain and lounge area, a 2,600 square foot concessions and bathroom building, and a 1,050 square foot recreational pavilion.

A new entrance to the park northwest of the existing entrance is included, as are 85 parking spaces.

The proposal is only for use of about four acres of the park, ESP representatives said at that June 12 meeting.

Total cost of the ESP proposal is $1.4 million. ESP is doing fundraising for that amount.

Other Components Of Plan

At present, a traditional baseball field occupies some of the space proposed for the ESP facility, with much of the remaining acreage undeveloped.

City Clerk Julie Sanders, Dickerson 6/12/2019

Dickerson said at the work session that the plans also include changes to the playground across Calls Creek from the baseball field, but she said she did not have details of those changes to discuss at that time.

Dickerson said the city is working toward a construction contract with ESP “should this move forward” to provide ESP the ability to do the construction shown on the concept plan.

She said ESP would operate the facility once it was completed, but the city would own the facility.

The city would invest about $400,000 in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds for related infrastructure improvements.

The city also is working with Oconeewaters Committee of the Upper Oconee Watershed Network (UOWN) on s stream bank stabilization project along Calls Creek in the park.

The segment of Calls Creek will serve as a demonstration site for landowners desiring a relatively low cost way to reduce stream bank erosion, according to Vicki Soutar, chair of Oconeewaters.

Advisory Board

Watkinsville Mayor Dave Shearon asked the Executive Committee of the Harris Shoals Advisory Board to get involved when discussion of the changes of the park began early this year.

Marc Galvin has served as chair of the six-member Executive Committee. Included are Sarah Bell from the Oconee County Historical Society and Soutar from Oconeewaters.

Mayor Shearon and City Administrator Dickerson have served as ex-officio members.

Harris Shoals Park was dedicated in 1947, Galvin told me in a telephone conversation Sunday evening. The Harris Cemetery is located near property lines, Galvin said, and the Board has not yet determined who actually owns the property on which it sits.

The Executive Committee devised the survey instrument, which contains 14 questions, three of which are optional. The results will be shared with the City Council.

The Executive Committee in June sent the city a statement saying it “supports making the park accessible for all members of the community by incorporating new facilities into its natural habitat, while maintaining its scenic beauty, preserving native wildlife, and ensuring the integrity of the wetlands.”

At the City Council meeting on July 17, Mayor Pro Tem Brian Brodrick, who presided, said “The city continues to work with ESP for plans for the Miracle League Field and splash pad. There’s more to report next month.”

“We’re doing some homework on Harris Shoals Park,” Brodrick said. “How it’s used. What’s important to people in the future? So I would love to encourage everyone to take that survey.”


The video below is of the Watkinsville City Council work session held June 12 at the University of North Georgia.

City Administrator Dickerson handled most of the presentation.

Discussion of the ESP proposal begin at 0:55 in the video.

Sarah Bell recorded the video.

The video below, also recorded by Bell, is of the July 17, 2019, City Council meeting.

Brodrick’s comments about the survey and Harris Shoals plans are at 51:12 in the video.

1 comment:

Doug Hansford said...

Harris Shoals is a nice in town park that I've enjoyed through the years. Adding amenities and preserving the natural areas would be much appreciated.