City purchases 150 acres to add to nature park on Newnan's Lake

Published: Monday, January 14, 2013 at 6:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 14, 2013 at 6:18 p.m.

Under palms and moss-draped oaks, a trail winds along a peninsula that juts several hundred feet into Newnan's Lake.

Located off Lakeshore Drive about four miles east of the Gainesville city limits, Palm Point Park is a wooded 17-acre tract known for its expansive view of the lake, its fishing and some of the premier bird watching territory in the county.

Last month, the city finalized the purchase of adjacent property intended for a substantial future expansion of the park's footprint.

The city paid $615,000 to buy 153 acres from Franklin Crates Inc. The property primarily consists of wooded timberland across Lakeshore Drive from the current park as well as a strip of shoreline that extends to the north and south of the park and includes cypress marsh.

Michelle Park, the assistant director of the city's Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, said the city's recently adopted long-term parks master plan identified a need for waterfront parks. City staff says it sees the expansion of Palm Point, a city park located outside the city limits, as a potential way to meet that need.

At this point, no plans are concrete, and the city doesn't have the money to do anything. Still, Park said the long-term plans might include additional nature trails, a fishing pier, a canoe launch and a larger parking area.

Linda Demetropoulos, the department's nature and culture manager, said the Palm Point addition had long been on the city's priority acquisition list. She said staff was taken by surprise when Ben Franklin, the owner of Franklin Crates, expressed a willingness to sell.

With the Palm Point land added to its inventory, Gainesville now has spent down almost all of the money that the half-cent Wild Spaces & Public Places sales tax generated for the city's conservation land acquisitions. Voters passed that tax in a 2008 referendum. When it sunset at the end of 2010, it had raised $2.4 million for the city's environmentally sensitive land purchasing program. About $2.24 million has been spent now on the purchase of almost 400 acres, Demetropoulos said.

The Palm Point property has a long history in the local area. In 1918, the area's first private club was housed on site in a building overlooking Newnan's Lake.

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