Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Oconee County Commissioners Given Opportunity To Review New Master Plans For County’s Existing And Proposed Parks

***First Item On Goal Setting Meeting Agenda***

Oconee County Commissioners got a preview last week of master plans for the county’s four existing parks and two planned new parks--one at the current Land Application System site on Rocky Branch Road and the other on the Middle Oconee River.

The plans will be before the county’s Recreation Advisory Committee later this month and then back before the Board of Commissioners, probably early next year, for adoption.

Lisa Davol, Director of the County’s Parks and Recreation Department, told the Board that her highest priority is adding tennis courts at Oconee Veterans Park and converting all the tennis courts at Herman C. Michael Park to pickleball courts.

Those changes are reflected in the master plans she presented to the Board for those two parks.

Davol said there are no major changes planned for the Bogart Sports Complex or Heritage Park in the far south of the county.

She presented the first public master plan for a new park on 220 acres on Rocky Branch Road that includes two gymnasiums, multi-use fields, and an artificial turf field with a track.

Davol also presented a concept plan for a passive park with walking trails and a boat launch on 72 acres the county owns on the Middle Oconee River.

Goal Setting Meeting

Davol was the first presenter at a 3 hour and 30 minutes Goal Setting Meeting the Board of Commissioners held on Oct. 27 at the Courthouse in Watkinsville.

County Administrator Justin Kirouac said in introducing Davol that her assignment was to review the master plans for the county’s parks to get feedback from the commissioners before the plans are presented in subsequent public meetings.

The Goal Setting meeting was open to the public, live streamed, and video recorded.

Davol went park by park in her presentation, summarizing what was proposed in each.

Oconee Veterans Park

Davol said there were a few things in the 2004 Master Plan for the 197-acre Oconee Veterans Park at 3500A Hog Mountain Road that had not yet been completed.

Oconee Veterans Park

The major missing item is 16 additional tennis courts, which will be added in clusters on either side of the existing eight courts, according to the plans.

These courts were a priority for funding from the 2015 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), Davol said, but the funding was switched to build three multi-use fields to accommodate demand for those facilities.

Funding for the tennis courts is included in the current 2021 SPLOST, she said.

Also missing from the 2004 Plan is a pavilion near the four baseball and softball fields, Davol said, and this remains in the proposed new master plan.

New to the Master Plan is a third entrance to the park from inside the Parkside residential development underway to the east of Oconee Veterans Park

Davol said this entrance, east of the three new multi-use fields, already has been designed.

(Click on the plans on the right to enlarge them.)

Herman C. Michael Park

The 37-acre Herman C. Michael Park, located across Hog Mountain Road from Oconee Veterans Park but with its entrance off Elder Road, recently has had a make-over of its two youth tennis courts and the addition of two pickleball courts.

Herman C. Michael Park

The Master Plan shows a conversion of the eight outdoor tennis courts behind the gymnasium into pickleball courts and the conversion of the two youth tennis courts into pickleball courts.

The end product will be 12 outdoor pickleball courts, eight of them lit, Davol said.

Some improvements to the parking lots also are planned, she said.

Bogart Sports Complex, Heritage Park

The Bogart Sports Complex, located on 33 acres behind the Bogart Library at 200 South Burson Street in Bogart, is unchanged in the Master Plan presented to the Board last week.

“There is no additional large plans for that park,” Davol said.

She said she does improve some parking improvements, and, at some point, she expects, the gravel parking lot will be paved.

On Heritage Park, Davol also said, “There is no major plans in the near future for that park.”

That 364-acre park is at 2543 Macon Highway (U.S. 441), south of Farmington.

At present, the park has a complex network of trails that stretch to the Apalachee River and are used by hikers, bikers, and for horseback riding.

Davol said there is discussion with users about upgrading the pavilion for use for horse events.

LAS Site

Much of the discussion about parks last week at the Commission Goal Setting meeting was on use of the Land Application System site once it is decommissioned from its current use as a wastewater treatment facility.

LAS Park

Davol said 220 of the nearly 250 acres of the site will be used for a new park, with the remainder set aside for other county facilities.

“This concept for our hopefully new future park is really based on what we have received in terms of community feedback in the parks, our staff, as well as our user groups and just in general through our Recreation Advisory Committee on some things that we need,” Davol said.

The Master Plan shows multi-use sports fields and two proposed indoor gymnasiums.

Each of those gymnasiums would accommodate four regulation-size basketball courts, she said, and those courts could be converted for volleyball as well.

The Master Plan shows an artificial turf field with track, lacrosse fields, soccer fields, picnic areas, a dog park, a playground, and trails.

Davol said the park will be built in phases, with one of the gymnasiums and the multi-use fields in the first phase.

Davol gave no time line for opening the new park, but Kirouac told me in an email after the meeting that he expects it will be another two years before the LAS site can be decommissioned.

Middle Oconee River

In June of 2018, the Board of Commissioners purchased 72 acres behind Athens Academy off Rockinwood Drive with frontage on the Middle Oconee River for a future wastewater treatment plant.

Middle Oconee River Park

At a Town Hall meeting the following month, Commission Chair John Daniell presented a concept plan for the site that set aside 32 acres for a passive park.

Davol presented that same concept plan to the Board at its meeting last week.

Davol gave no time frame for development of the park, but she said it would be “primarily just a passive park.”

It would include parking areas, picnic areas, some hiking trails, and possibly a kayak and canoe launch pad, Davol said.

Trail Master Plan

Davol said she would be presenting the Master Plans for the county’s parks to the Recreation Advisory Committee, scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. on Nov. 15 at the Oconee Veterans Park Community Center.

She said she also would present to the Committee a Trail Master Plan for the county created by the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission.

The Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) referendum on the ballot on Nov. 8 includes $3 million for new multi-trails in the county.

The county at present is designing a multi-use trail along Hog Mountain Road to connect Butler’s Crossing with U.S. 441.

Other multi-use trails under consideration would connect the new park at the LAS site with Oconee Veterans Park and Herman C. Michael Park.

Other Items On Agenda

The Goal Setting meeting included a discussion of a variety of  other topics, including county plans for roadway paving if TSPLOST is approved by voters.

Commissioners also got a financial update, a review of plans for water and sewer services, and an overview of the operation of the Planning and Code Enforcement Department.

The Board also discussed the future of county facilities once the new Administrative Building is completed at the intersection of North Main Street and U.S. 441 bypass north of Watkinsville.

The Board also initiated discussion of modification to the county’s program for tax relief for senior citizens.

The meeting began in the Commission Chamber and then moved to the Grand Jury Room.


The video of the meeting is on the county’s YouTube channel and is embedded below.

Davol began her presentation starting at 2:01 in the video.

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