Dacula grist mill moving up in the world - 5 feet

LAWRENCEVILLE - A historic landmark in Dacula will be raised five feet to protect it from flooding, commissioners were told Tuesday.

The construction on Freeman's Mill won't happen until 2007, but commissioners heard a report on the plan for the building and the park surrounding it after months of work from citizens and preservationists.

The county purchased the nearly 150-year-old gristmill in 2001 using both local and state greenspace funds.

In 2003, heavy rains caused a portion of the Alcovy River dam at the mill to break off, but historic preservation architect Jack Pyburn said the first priority of the county should be to preserve the mill.

He recommended raising the building five feet because the bottom floor of the building is within the 100-year flood-plain.

He said the lift would not affect the site's status on the National Register of Historic Places because mills have historically been raised to account for changing watersheds. Moving the building - which the county discovered a few years ago in the case of the Yellow River Post Office in Lilburn - would have put the registry status in jeopardy.

To avoid the criticism that came with the Yellow River project, officials put together a steering committee and consulted with the Gwinnett Historic Preservation and Restoration Board as well as the Recreation Board.

"That's a real gem there," District 3 Commissioner Mike Beaudreau said. "It would be valuable for kids to see how that mill worked."

With only about $3 million earmarked from the 2005 sales tax program, the first phase of the park opening will include the restoration of the mill building, some interpretive signs to explain the historical significance, parking and sidewalks. Work to design the project could begin in the next several months, Community Services Director Phil Hoskins said.

In future phases, the committee has recommended building trails, two river overlooks and a playground and look into buying surrounding land to preserve more of the wooded character of the area.