"The whole thing is just to get some input from people in the community of what they think of the proposed plan, how they would like to see it changed or whether they like it at all," Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said.
The undeveloped field behind the Evans Kroger off Washington Road, which the county purchased from Doctors Hospital for $4 million, is an area where dog trainers often meet and children fly kites.
A total of $4.8 million for the park and improvements was included in a $43 million bond issue that voters approved in November. County commissioners recently established a seven-person panel to take a look at a preliminary drawing for proposed changes to the field, such as a playground and a paved walking path, or consider whether it should be left undisturbed. The committee will be joined by three county staff members and one ex-officio member.
"My reasoning for not wanting to leave it like it is is to increase the potential for more people to use it," Mr. Cross said. Some aren't able to use the field for walking because of its uneven landscape and the absence of a paved path.
More than a year ago county officials publicly unveiled a plan for the 17-acre field and asked residents to respond to a survey about what they wanted for the park. Since then, an artist's rendering has been presented to the public, but nothing else has happened.
The original drawing called for a lawn area, which would be large enough to have a championship-size soccer field, and two secondary lawn areas, all bordered and separated by trees.
A 100-by-600-foot mall area bordered by trees also was included between two of the lawns, as was a fountain at the center of the mall and a playground nearby. The plan also included a plaza, bathrooms, bike and walking paths, a multipurpose pavilion, and parking on the perimeter.
For now, county officials plan to have electrical service improved at the field and a portable restroom moved to the site.
Mr. Cross said that once the new committee begins meeting, he expects to hear back from the group in a few months. At that point, depending on what is decided, Mr. Cross said the county might consider adding such a project to the next proposed special purpose local option sales tax, which could be voted on as early as 2008.
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ON THE COMMITTEE
Citizen members: Lawrence Hammond, Alice Padgett, Barry Paschal, Larry Robinette, Steve Brown, Trey Allen and Jeannie Brandon
County staff members: Community and Leisure Services Director Barry Smith, county forester Preston Duffie and community events manager Stacie Adkins. There also is one ex-officio member, Don Lawrence.