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County buys fields from church

LILBURN - For two decades, the ballfields on Rockbridge Road have been home to countless softball games. And with a new owner, the land will be used for generations of athletes.

Earlier this month, officials agreed to pay Harmony Grove United Methodist Church $513,600 for 17.26 acres between Lions Club Park and another swath of greenspace.

"That field has been used as a kind of community outreach for 20 years," said Dorsey Grist, a member and treasurer for the church. "This would be a way to continue that for the betterment of the community for some time to come."

Grist said church members labored over the decision, with some sad to see the adult softball program go. But the fields needed major upgrades, and the county government wanted the land as part of a planned expansion to Lions Club Park.

So the acreage, which contains two softball fields became the fourth tract to come under county control since the government took over Lions Club Park from the city of Lilburn last year.

Gwinnett Community Services Director Phil Hoskins said church teams currently using the fields will be allowed to finish the year.

In early 2008, residents and park officials will come together to plan the long-term future of Lions Club Park, which was revamped last year.

With Lilburn's Camp Creek Greenway, which now ends across from the Harmony Grove land, Hoskins said the future expansion would likely include trails.

"Some people were sad to see it go, but the opinion is there are a lot of future positives in it for our community," Grist said.