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Friday, August 8, 2008

East Shore Park On Merritt’s Mill Pond May Open

By: Sid Riley

Have you ever heard of a park named East Shore Recreational Park located in Jackson County on the East shore of Merritt’s Mill Pond? Well it seems that in 1996 the State used grant funds to purchase a 42 acre parcel on the east shore of the Mill Pond, which abuts the northern boundary of the Indian Springs Subdivision. This parcel was deeded to Jackson County for the purpose of creation of a park area.
Chuck Hatcher, Jackson County Director of Parks and Recycling, received a letter in June from the State Department of Community Affairs informing him that they had performed a site inspection and found no park development action had been initiated as approved in the original plans. They requested a new plan and timetable of implementation for the creation of this park be prepared and submitted to them.
In response to this requirement, Chuck Hatcher issued a notice of a public meeting for the purpose of discussing this park construction requirement with concerned citizens and property owners. As a result, over seventy five concerned Indian Springs residents and property owners met with Mr. Hatcher at the Citizen’s Lodge on Tuesday evening.
The group arrived with a decidedly negative bias towards the proposed park. They feared the increased public traffic flow through their area, increased security concerns, and general public presence would result in significant negatives for their neighborhood. Hatcher respectfully asked that they allow him to present the situation and planned actions to them before public discussion began.
He explained the history of the land purchase and the recent letter from the State officials. He then laid out a plan of action he was proposing to the Commissioners that he felt would work to the best interest of everyone involved. First, he told the crowd they were going to clean up the underbrush and create primitive nature walking trails through the area. Only a small gravel parking lot would be built instead of the large bus accommodating lot that was in the original blueprints from 1996.
The concept is to only use county funds, which he feels will be around $1,000, to clear the area and create the trails. This will provide a better kept and managed area for this property which is next to the subdivision, and will provide nature trails that can be enjoyed by the residents of the area. Since no State funds will be used, if the county decides to close the area or use it for some other approved purpose, there will be no state approvals required. If they use State grants to create the park, a twenty five year operating obligation will also be created.
After the concept was fully reviewed and discussed, the mood and opinions of those in attendance shifted to a much more positive response. A vote was taken and almost everyone in attendance voted approval for proceeding with the planned approach.
Thus, it appears a new nature park for Jackson County at the Mill Pond is on the horizon.

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