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Renovations under way at Auburn's Shackleford Park

AUBURN - Auburn's James Shackelford Memorial Park on Brown Bridge Road is undergoing a makeover.

The 11-acre park opened in the early 1990s as Brown Bridge Park, but it's history stretches to the 1800s, when the town of Gooberville stood on, and sunk into, the site.

Gooberville was a busy little farming town until about the turn of the century, when its buildings began to sink into the swampy ground, according to "From Beadland to Barrow," compiled by the Barrow County Historical Society. Residents abandoned Gooberville for the high ground near Auburn's railroad.

An old cemetery on Apalachee Ridge Road is Gooberville's only remnant, according to John King, former Barrow County Commissioner.

Since opening, Brown Bridge Park was used mostly by camping Boy Scouts.

"It sat unused until Daniel Carper, an Eagle Scout, made the trails," King said. "There used to be a haunted trail there for Halloween. I think it will be a little green jewel in the city where people can enjoy what nature is actually left out here."

Brown Bridge Park was renamed James Shackelford Memorial Park in 2004 in honor of the Auburn city councilman and mayor pro-tem who passed away after 2.5 years in office.

"Jimmy was a humble man, and he would be honored and busting at the seams," said Councilwoman Dorissa Shackelford, Shackelford's widow.

In 2004, city officials closed Shackelford Park.

"It was dark and overgrown and we felt like it was possibly unsafe," said Sally Brown, Auburn's parks and recreation commission chair. "Our insurance carrier recommended we close it."

Auburn City Council members approved in March a master plan for the park's redevelopment designed by the Jeager Group of Athens, costing about $12,000. The one-cent sales tax will pay for most work, Councilwoman Linda Blechinger said.

"We want to keep it as natural as we can and just add amenities," Dorissa Shackelford said.

The park will be open during renovations.

"We don't want to compete with Little Mulberry Park," Brown said. "Shackelford Park will offer something people can't get elsewhere - free camping close by."

Workers will soon construct walking trails, then picnic and camping areas.

The master plan shows one large pavilion and three smaller ones with grills and picnic tables. Decks will lead to the Apalachee River and a system of mulch-covered trails will expand the existing one-third-mile path. Workers will construct a wide passive recreation area with swings and a playground, a vehicular bridge and a pedestrian entrance along Brown Bridge Road.

"I think the master plan is beautiful," Dorissa Shackelford said. "My cousin is thinking of getting married in the park. I think with the creek, river, pavilions and natural setting we will see a lot of weddings and celebrations."