Lanier Islands owner wants road widened, name change

LAKE LANIER - The road to Lake Lanier can get confusing.

It's Friendship - no, Holiday - no, Ga. Highway 347. And on popular weekends the road - whatever it's called - can back up to the Interstate 985 off-ramp.

Virgil Williams wants to make the stretch easier to remember and easier to travel.

Thursday, at a meeting of the state's transportation board, the owner of Lake Lanier Islands and Resorts asked the board to widen the thoroughfare from two lanes to four and change its name to Lake Lanier Islands Parkway for the entire length.

"It's really confusing getting in here," Williams said. "One thing we'd like to see is one common name for the entire road. I've got one in mind."

The Georgia Department of Transportation already has plans to widen the span to its intersection with McEver Road, but Williams hopes it will be continued to the end of the public road. He intends to improve the streets within the resort.

Mike Evans, the board's chair, said the group would definitely consider the suggestion.

"Hopefully, we'll bring Mr. Williams' vision to fruition," he said. "Economic development is a big part of what we do. Transportation means business. If we're wanting to get people to a certain point to spend their money, we want to get them there as easily as possible."

Williams, who laid out a master plan for the resort's 1,100 acres last August, said he has already spent $8 million renovating rooms at the Emerald Pointe Hotel, refurbishing attractions at the water park and making other improvements. By May of next year, he expects that investment to reach $20 million as new cottages, hotels and wedding venues are built on the land. He also plans to upgrade the resort's sewer facilities to a quality higher than Gwinnett County's F. Wayne Hill Water Treatment plant.

As more improvements are made at Lake Lanier Islands, the need for better infrastructure will become increasingly apparent, Chief Operating Officer Grier Todd said.

Traffic currently becomes backed up with 350 rooms available on the islands, he said, but plans to increase that number to 1,500 or 2,000 along with the addition of shopping could easily make traffic much worse without improvements.

"Have you ever been to Magical Nights of Lights on a Saturday night?" he said of the resort's annual Christmas light display. "It's backed up."

Vernita Loveridge, who represents Holiday Marina with Westrec Marinas, said the marina at the end of the road that shares its name had not heard about the name-change proposal and had no comment about the proposal.

"I'd really have to think about it and the impact of it a little," she said. "I know it makes sense to him, but I don't know if it makes sense to me."

Williams said Lake Lanier is the most dominant feature in the area, at Gwinnett's northern tip, and eliminating the confusion for drivers is critical. The resort constantly gets calls from visitors who think they're lost, he said, because the street signs they see do not correspond with the names of the roads they think they're supposed to be on.

"It's confusing, to say the very least," he said. "We want people to get to us easily."