Extra Special People, in a virtual meeting on Friday, released to the public greatly revised plans for its proposed development of a part of Harris Shoals Park in collaboration with the city of Watkinsville.
Retained in those plans is a Miracle League Field, which is a ball field that can be used by people in wheelchairs, but gone are the originally proposed splash pad, additional park entrance off Experiment Station Road, and increased parking.
The proposal moves the proposed Miracle League Field from the edge of Calls Creek, which runs through the park, to the area immediately behind the existing ESP two-building complex at 189 VFW Drive in Watkinsville.
Included in the plans are a new playground next to the ball field and a paved pathway to allow users of the existing facilities to access the playground and ball field and people with mobility limitations access to the shoals area, which is the central physical and historic feature of Harris Shoals Park.
That pathway also will make parking at the ESP complex easily available to other users of the park, ESP Executive Director Laura Whitaker said on Friday.
Whitaker first released the plans late in the May 20 meeting of the Watkinsville Mayor and Council, and she said on Friday she is hoping to be back on the agenda at that body’s June 17 meeting to further discuss a possible Letter of Intent for joint development of the park.
ESP also has scheduled two additional public meetings on the proposal, both in person, from 8 to 9:30 a.m. on June 6 and from 6 to 8 p.m. on June 10, both at ESP.
Friday’s session was open to the public via Zoom and had been announced by the city and in an article in the Thursday edition of The Oconee Enterprise.
|Whitaker From Zoom Session 5/29/2020|
“It is so, so important to us that this is a collaborative project, that is working between ESP, the city and also the community members and citizens of Watkinsville and also Oconee County,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker said ESP has been working with city for nearly two years on the collaboration.
Last summer ESP proposed a Miracle League Field, splash pad and new parking in the area of Harris Shoals that now holds a single ball field and some horseshoe pits.
That proposal met opposition from some in the community concerned about the environmental impact of the project and its consequences for the tranquil nature of the shoals setting.
State requirements for a new entrance off Experiment Station Road also created problems for the original design, Whitaker said after those plans were announced.
The session on Friday lasted a little more than 40 minutes, with about 30 of those minutes taken up with questions from the participants.
Whitaker announced that ESP had created a web page responding to questions already received and would continue to add to it.
The key feature of the new plans is A Miracle League Field, a custom-designed, rubberized turf field that can be used by people in wheelchairs.
ESP serves children and young adults with developmental disabilities.
The field would occupy what is now wooded space behind the existing main ESP building.
A new playground would be added next to the Miracle League Field and behind the existing ESP gym.
That gym would be expanded to add public restrooms and a concession area.
The plans also call for community botanical gardens between the gym and City Hall as well as behind City Hall.
Watkinsville Mayor and Council took no action when Whitaker presented the plans to it on May 20.
That meeting was a very long one that included the introduction of two resolutions by Mayor Bob Smith, one dealing with the location of the Oconee County Library and the other with the location of a future Oconee County administrative building.
In the first case, Smith asked the Council to “approve this Resolution as a sign of support to keeping the Oconee County Library in Downtown Watkinsville.”
In the second, he asked Council to “approve this Resolution as a sign of support for having all Oconee County Administration Facilities in Downtown Watkinsville, in the best interest of all citizens.”
No one on Council made a motion to pass either.
In June of last year, the county announced plans to purchase just less than eight acres of land just outside of the northern boundary of Watkinsville for a future administrative building. John Daniell, chair of the Board of Commissioners, has said he hopes the city will annex the proper;ty into the city limits.
The county did purchases the land, and the Oconee County Library Board of Trustees in July of last year voted to located an expanded Oconee County Library, now on Experiment Station Road, to the new location.
Funding for initial construction on the site of a new building, which will house both county administrative offices and the library, is on the proposed list for voter approval in the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum planned for the Nov. 3 ballot.
The first video below is of the ESP presentation on Friday.
Gina Elliott, director of Operations and Finance at ESP, provided me with the Zoom recording of the session.
I had joined the session but was unable to record it on my own.
I have trimmed off the parts of the video devoted to setting up the session. All of the remainder is included in the embedded video below.
The second video is of the initial part of the Watkinsville Council meeting of May 20.
I was able to capture only a part of that meeting, and the video does not include the ESP presentation or the discussion of the two resolutions by Smith.
It does include much of the discussion of the possibility of establishing a Downtown Development Authority. I include it here for that reason.