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Corps of Engineers accepts YMCA plan for Bethel Park

CUMMING - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently announced it has selected the recreation development plan submitted by the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta for Bethel Park on Lake Sidney Lanier in Forsyth County.

E. Patrick Robbins, the chief public affairs officer for the Corps' Mobile District, said an interdisciplinary team was formed with members from the Mobile, Nashville and Savannah districts to evaluate the proposals submitted by the YMCA and Forsyth County.

"In doing their evaluation the team carefully followed the Corps' mandated seven evaluation criteria and felt the YMCA's proposal ranked significantly higher in three of the evaluated areas," Robbins said. "These were public interest, market study and feasibility."

The YMCA wants to develop a cabin-based resident camp in the 62-acre park that would serve the public by offering structured outdoor experiences to youth, schools, families and community organizations in the metro Atlanta area, according to a news release.

Jeff Anderson, a longtime YMCA supporter who represents a citizens' group backing the proposal, said there is a severe shortage of such facilities in Georgia. Children are being sent to camps in other states.

The camp will be used by the YMCA for 10 weeks during the year, Anderson said. During the other 42 weeks, civic groups can get permission to use the facilities, he said.

The YMCA already has a capital fund in place and a financial plan to build the camp right away, Anderson said.

The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, however, is considering taking legal action against the Corps, according to a news release from Forsyth County.

"It has always been the belief of the Board of Commissioners that the local government would be afforded the right of first refusal in the event that the Corps opted to lease their parks," Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse said. "We believe it is our obligation to act in the best interest of the citizens of this county. Our intent has and will continue to be preserving access to the park for the citizens of Forsyth County."

Anderson said the YMCA proceeded in good faith and intends to build the camp.

"If the county decides to sue the Corps, they will lose," he said. "I hope they come to their senses and do not delay the building on the camp."