Georgia: Don Carter State Park Construction Update

Work on Don Carter State Parkoff northeastern Lake Lanier is on track.

Workers pave roads leading to campsites. (Credit: Tom Reed/The Times)

“We’re pleased that we’re moving forward and everything is on schedule,” said Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for the Parks, Recreation, and Historic Sites division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“We’re still on track to complete the park in early 2013.”

Construction work is progressing well on key parts of Don Carter State Park. During a visit last week, dump trucks and bulldozers were rolling along dirt-packed and gravel roads fingering throughout the 1,040-acre park, reports The Gainesville Times.

Once complete, Hall County’s first state park will feature 48 campsites with water and electricity, eight two-bedroom cottages, a visitor center, playgrounds, two boat ramps, and a beach/bathhouse in a scenic cove off the Chattahoochee River.

“This is the second state park we’ve ever built from scratch,” said Toby Evans, Northern Region manager for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, noting that the first one was Chattahoochee Bendin Newnan.

Throughout the project, workers have tried to spare as many trees as possible, he said. “And there’s been a couple of places where we (were) just going to do some reforestation,” Evans said.

Don Carter State Park will feature campsites like this one for RVs. (Credit: Tom Reed/The Times)

“The trees that we could have saved probably weren’t worth saving, so we’re just going to plant new ones.”

Construction started in December 2011, but the park dates back to 2002, when its namesake, Gainesville real estate executive Don Carter, was stepping down from the DNR board after 29 years.

Then-DNR Commissioner Lonice Barrett announced the naming of the park at a going-away party for Carter at Lake Lanier Islands. Carter had identified the property, which sits off North Browning Bridge Road, to the attention of the state, which would eventually buy the land, writes The Gainesville Times.

Then, after nearly eight years of waiting for funding, a $14 million bond package would make the project a reality, with construction costs making up about $11.5 million of the total cost.

“It’s an economic stimulator and will put people to work,” Evans said, justifying the project taking place during hard economic times.

“But it was planned ahead of the downturn, and the recreational need is here.” Area and state dignitaries, including then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, gathered at the park site for a formal groundbreaking ceremony in August 2010.

“It will be a park that will benefit the working class of people,” Carter said at the time.

“There won’t be any golf courses or any big motels. It will be Mother Nature in her splendor.”

Evans said that Carter “comes out about every week” to check on the project. Once the DNR locks in a date for the park opening, “we will start advertising it and (people) can start making reservations,” he said. Evans said he’s pleased so far with the progress, and he especially appreciates the park’s many scenic vistas.

“It’s a beautiful park,” he said. A summer 2013 opening is expected.

A truck goes through the entrance gate under construction at Don Carter State Park. (Credit: Tom Reed/The Times)


Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites

The Department of Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks & Historic Sites manages more than 60 properties that preserve the state’s environment and history.

From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Colonial Coast, the sites offer an exceptional variety of resources:

  • Mountains and canyons
  • Forests, fields, and marshes
  • Waterfalls, lakes, swamps, and rivers
  • Battlefields, historic homes, and Native American sites

Phone: (800) 864-7275


Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

Read More

Georgia: Lake Lanier gets second state park

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is preparing to build its first park at Lake Lanier despite recent budget cuts that have curtailed services at other parks, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

F.D. Roosevelt State Park is located near Callaway Gardens and the quaint town of Warm Springs. Photo courtesy Georgia DNR

The 1,040-acre Don Carter State Park is one of two facilities that soon will be added to the roster of 63 Georgia state parks and historic sites.

In addition to Don Carter, DNR will open the $7 million Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Coweta County next year. Hatcher said she can think of only two other state parks—Sprewell Bluff and Tallulah Gorge—that have opened in the last 15 years, though the agency have built new facilities at existing parks.

Don Carter State Park will serve the less-developed northeastern part of Lake Lanier, offering camping, swimming, and other outdoor activities.

“It will be a nice alternative to the busier, higher-density areas (of the lake),” said DNR spokeswoman Kim Hatcher. “This will be the quieter end.”

Lake Lanier is a popular recreation spot for metro Atlanta residents. Each year more than 7.5 million people visit the lake.

Black Rock Mountain State Park, named for its sheer cliffs of dark-colored biotite gneiss, encompasses some of the most outstanding country in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Photo courtesy Georgia DNR

The Army Corps of Engineers oversees the lake and operates 46 recreational facilities.

DNR bought most of the property that will become Don Carter State Park about 15 years ago. Last year Gov. Sonny Perdue included $14 million to design and build the park in a $1.2 billion bond package approved by the General Assembly.

The package also included money to build schools, libraries, roads, and other facilities. Perdue billed it as an economic stimulus that would create 20,000 construction jobs.

DNR’s Hatcher said it will cost an estimated $500,000 to operate Don Carter State Park.

Hatcher said income from about 20 cottages should eventually help the park make a small profit. She said two similar lake-based parks with cottages—Richard B. Russell and Tugaloo—make profits of $60,000 and $23,000 a year, respectively.

The state will select a contractor for Don Carter State Park in November, and construction should begin early next year.

The park will feature camping, cottages with lake views, a boat dock, boat ramps, a swimming beach, hiking and horse trails and picnic areas.

The Army Corps of Engineers also operates seven campgrounds with 482 campsites at the recreation area. This includes 430 sites with water and electric hookups. Most sites are waterfront and all have a picnic table fire ring, grill and lantern pole.

One of Georgia’s oldest and most popular state parks, Vogel is located at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The corps has experienced a booming summer at all its recreation areas along Lake Lanier.

Visitation numbers show a spike for 2010.

From January through July, the corps reports 4,748,982 visitors, up about 8.5% from the 4,375,793 visitors January through July 2009.

Open since March or April some of the corps-run campgrounds are now closed for the season, with Old Federal and Bald Ridge set to close November 21.

Schedules vary for the day-use parks, although many are open year-round.

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind (Official Georgia State Song)

Melodies bring memories

That linger in my heart

Make me think of Georgia

Why did we ever part?

Some sweet day when blossoms fall

And all the world’s a song

I’ll go back to Georgia

‘Cause that’s where I belong.

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines.

Other arms reach out to me

Other eyes smile tenderly

Still in peaceful dreams I see

The road leads back to you.

Georgia, Georgia, no peace I find

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

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