Rain slows down two Sugar Hill developments

SUGAR HILL - Recent rain may have slowed development of Sugar Hill's new Gary Pirkle Park and older E.E. Robinson Park, but it hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of City Manager Bob Hail and the city council.

The two facilities took center stage at the council's work session Monday, as Hail provided his monthly update of both facilities' development, and the council liked what it heard.

"The weather's just another challenge to overcome," Hail said. "Plans are just things you deviate from because of unknown unknowns."

Gary Pirkle Park, a 67-acre facility expected to open next spring at Suwanee Dam and Austin Garner Roads, has taken considerable shape since the city broke ground there in March 2008. When complete, the park will feature soccer fields and tennis courts, mini-golf, a snack bar, clubhouse and tennis pro shop, as well as two miles of walking trails over streams and under a covered bridge.

Its crowning feature is three already completed multi-purpose athletic fields on 255,000 square feet of synthetic turf, the biggest such contiguous surface in the Southeast. But next month's scheduled completion of the two other premier features, a 6,000-square-foot playground under a solar-powered pavilion, had City Recreation Director Andy McQuagge bubbling over.

"A playground underneath a giant roof is a big wow factor for this park," McQuagge said. "We wanted a grand, one-of-a-kind playground to go along with the grandness of our synthetic turf we already have."

McQuagge said E.E. Robinson, a 34-acre facility that opened in 1976 a half-mile south of downtown on Level Creek Road, is well on course to its expanded 56-acre vision. Site of the city's Fall Festival and Independence Day Sparks in the Park fireworks show, the park's soccer field will soon be changed to its third and fourth little league baseball fields, and ultimately, among eight little league and major league-size fields by the middle of next year.

"North Gwinnett in general is lacking baseball facilities," McQuagge pointed out. "Now, the excitement of having your child grow up playing baseball at E.E. Robinson from age 4 to college age is tremendous."