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Floods took toll on parks

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Historic Freeman's Mill is located along the Alcovy River, which crested above its banks during the recent floods.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Historic Freeman's Mill is located along the Alcovy River, which crested above its banks during the recent floods.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett's roads weren't the only county assets damaged in September's record floods.

The storms also took a toll on local parks.

Twenty county parks sustained damage during the devastating storms, which affected hundreds of homes.

But one major landmark was spared damage after a recent $434,325 renovation.

The historic Freeman's Mill, the last remaining water-powered gristmill in Gwinnett, is located along the Alcovy River, which crested above its banks during the floods. But the structure was high and dry because crews recently raised the gristmill five feet so it would be above the area's floodplain but retain its historical significance.

"Had the mill not been raised, the September 2009 flooding would have certainly inundated the first floor of the structure, and possibly dislodged the building from its foundations causing extensive damage or complete destruction," said Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Tammy Gibson.

Phyllis Davis, chairwoman of the Gwinnett Historic Preservation and Restoration Board, said the county is fortunate to still have the historic treasure around after it was placed on a new foundation in August.

The park is expected to open to the public later this month, and a grand opening ceremony could be held in the spring.

"When we started planning this mill raising project over two years ago, we certainly never anticipated the payoff would come quite so quickly," Davis said. "We were stunned to see the pictures of where the high-water marks came during the floods on the mill building itself. Obviously if the mill raising had not been completed this past summer, water would have been several feet into the building and the county would have incurred serious damage to this precious piece of Gwinnett's history."

Other local parks weren't so lucky,

The destruction was centered around the county's western and southern communities, and the parks in those areas were not immune.

Most of the damage was to soft and asphalt trails, trees whose root systems were undermined and debris and silt accumulating in parking lots, trails and low-lying grass meadows, she said.

Two parks, both along major rivers that flooded well above their banks, sustained major damage.

At Yellow River Park, a popular spot for cyclists due to its natural terrain trails, those routes were hampered by major silt deposits, and a house where a police officer lived and kept an eye on the activity was totally destroyed.

Little Mulberry Park also sustained major damage at drainage areas for its multi-purpose paved trail.

Other parks that sustained minor damage during the floods are: Alexander Park, Bethesda Park, Club Drive Park, Collins Hill Park, Duncan Creek Park, George Pierce Park, Harbins Park, Harmony Grove Soccer Complex, Holcomb Bridge Park, Jones Bridge Park, Lions Club Park, McDaniel Farm Park, Mountain Park Park and Mountain Park Aquatic Center, Pinckneyville Park, Ronald Reagan Park, Settles Bridge Park, Tribble Mill Park, and Sweetwater Park.

Officials are hoping the $250,000 to $300,000 needed for repairs will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.