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Parkgoers find happiness in trails

DACULA - Glenda Lehmberg remembers a day not too long ago when she took her four kids on an excursion to find "the country."

Lehmberg, who grew up on a farm but now lives in Lawrenceville, said she didn't have any luck finding any quiet, open spaces in Gwinnett.

A trip to Little Mulberry Park's first Trail Mix event Saturday helped reaffirm the fact that such a place does still exist.

"It's beautiful," Lehmberg said of the park while her children were enjoying a petting zoo that had been brought in for the day. "I like that there's a lot of greenspace. This park isn't full of baseball fields like a lot of the others."

Little Mulberry Park in Dacula is one of several passive parks in the county that has been designed for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Gwinnett commissioners officially opened the second phase of the

890-acre park Saturday, but that section has actually been open to the public since September.

Katie Blue of Auburn said she comes to the park nearly every day to walk with her 8-month-old son, Johnny. Blue said she likes the park because even on a day like Saturday when the parking lot was full, it's still big enough that it doesn't feel crowded.

"We love it," Blue said. "It's always so peaceful at the park no matter how many people are here."

Saturday saw more people than officials had expected for the Trail Mix event, said Tammy Gibson, director of resources and marketing for Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation.

"We've had a really good turnout," Gibson said. "We're thinking about making it a yearly event."

The event, which coincided with National Trails Day, got started early with a 51⁄2-mile equestrian trail ride at 8 a.m. Gibson said they had about five or six riders come with their horses for that event.

Starting at the same time was a four-mile strenuous nature hike, followed by a two-mile Trail Mix Fun Run/Walk at 8:30 a.m. Gibson said roughly 140 people signed up for the Fun Run/Walk, but she thought even more people participated in the event.

After a celebration ceremony at 9:30 a.m. led by J.K. Murphy, the event's grand marshal and publisher of the Gwinnett Daily Post, there were numerous free activities such as a petting zoo, pony rides, hayrides and nature hikes.

Steve Hicks said he and his wife, Angela, saw great crowds at their tent, which featured birds of prey from their raptor rehabilitation business, Bubba and Friends Inc. But the Hickses said that's nothing new at Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation event.

"We're used to programs around here being very well attended," Steve Hicks said. "Gwinnett County has an incredible park system."