Barrow County proposes building two new parks

WINDER - Barrow County residents are looking at soon having two new parks, their first in 50 years.

Victor Lord Park has served as Barrow County's only park for a half century, although a second phase with a 25,000-square-foot recreation building was constructed in 2001. In accordance with suggestions outlined in the 2005-2015 parks and recreation master plan, the county will open its first public swimming pool Memorial Day weekend. Residents might get a new soccer complex, too.

Barrow County Commissioners are scheduled to vote Jan. 9 on whether to enter an intergovernmental agreement with Braselton to construct a 71-acre soccer complex at Ga. Highways 211 and 124. Braselton Town Council members voted unanimously in November to approve the agreement.

The 71 acres was donated about two years ago by Madison Ventures, owned by Wayne Mason, a former Gwinnett County Chairman.

Plans are to begin with three soccer fields, possibly adding more later, with a paved walking path and a field house with restrooms, concession stands and a scoreboard.

"We know we can get a lot out there, but don't know about funding yet," said Michael Fischer, Barrow County's deputy administrator. "Much of the land will be left as greenspace with nature trails and passive recreation areas. It's fairly flat and clear so it won't need a lot of development to get it ready for soccer fields."

Braselton will supply the land, sewer and water at no charge to the county. If commissioners vote in favor of the project, Barrow County will pay for the complex's design, development, construction and maintenance, as well as managing programs and activities. The county will provide police patrol and security with Braselton covering any park-related 911 calls and giving backup assistance to sheriff's deputies.

Braselton, Barrow build walking trail together

The soccer complex will stand near the Mulberry River, where Braselton and Barrow County recently collaborated to build three miles of a seven-mile walking trail covered in mulch. The cost of the trail is $250,000, according to Jennifer Scott, Braselton town manager.

"A Land and Water Conservation Fund grant contributed $100,000, Barrow County paid $100,000 and that leaves $50,000 for Braselton, which will come from SPLOST," Scott said.

Ray Chesna, who coaches a co-ed soccer team of 6 and 7-year-olds, said Barrow County needs the fields.

"Hopefully, with a field like this, we can promote soccer and increase the ability of the kids to compete on the same level as Gwinnett," Chesna said. "At Victor Lord, the fields are good, but there's not enough of them. Barrow has grown so fast we lack for space."

Seventy-seven-acre Victor Lord Park supports 550 soccer players, 975 baseball players, 440 football players, and 250 basketball players. It's 2007 operating budget is $881,000.

Soccer upgrades to

Victor Lord Park

Barrow County has obtained a $100,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund grant to upgrade the existing fields at Victor Lord Park. Working throughout the summer, between spring and winter soccer schedules, workers will reconstruct the fields, add lighting, walking trails, a bridge over a ravine and a trail connecting the two parks. SPLOST funds will cover the remainder of the $500,000 project, according to Fischer.

Swimming pool to open 2007

Barrow County's first public swimming pool, is scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend 2007. The pool was originally part of the Pine Shore neighborhood. When the pool went bankrupt, the county bought it with $75,000 of SPLOST funds. The 2.5-acre Pine Shore Park will have a picnic pavilion, playground and a 1⁄4-mile walking trail.

"We will offer swim lessons and water aerobics," said Nicole Smith, leisure services director.

Construction will begin in February to refurbish the park's existing brick community building. Workers will construct a front entrance, upgrade the bathrooms and remodel the meeting room.

Barrow County's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Master Plan identifies the need for neighborhood parks throughout the county.

"We have a 10-year master plan and it is a very aggressive plan," Fischer said. "Soccer was a big issue, and a pool, too, and we are addressing those now. A water park was wanted, but this was a great way to get into it real quick. It's hard to find land that is affordable."