HAHIRA -- Hahira residents met with the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners Thursday night to discuss the proposed North Lowndes Recreation Facility Master Plan.

Lose and Associates, the recreation consultants firm hired to design and develop the proposed 20,000- to 25,000-square-foot park, was represented by John Lavender, project manager/landscape architect.

All residents of Lowndes County were encouraged to share their input for the direction of the park, but Hahira was targeted as a meeting area because North Lowndes County is probably the most recreationally underdeveloped portion of the county, Lavender said.

"In deciding where to place a park, we try to determine how many people live in a

two-mile radius of a particular area," Lavender said. "We're looking at pockets of the area that aren't being served by a park, and we're considering how far people have to travel to go to the nearest park."

Hahira resident Steve Ruggiero said, "I was so excited to hear something is coming this way. We go to Valdosta for just about everything. The growth is really coming this way."

Turning to the 10 people at the meeting for ideas on design and safety, Lavender handed out surveys from the Valdosta-Lowndes County Recreation, Parks and Community Affairs Department.

At the meeting, residents expressed a need for supervision at the park, a possible hockey facility and lighted multi-purpose fields. Some expressed a concern about maintenance costs.

"A hockey facility is not in the first phase, but there's a give-and-take with this," County Manager Joe Pritchard said. "We're not going to be able to give everybody what they want to start with, but we'll do our best."

The facility might include a free-skate center with concrete skating bowls, half pipe, moveable features, stairs and rails at different heights, shelter/pavilion, lake, two 225-feet fields with permanent outfields, two 275-feet multipurpose fields with moveable outfields, 50/30 sports lighting, bleachers, dugouts, one shade shelter, restroom/concession building, batting cages, large parking lot and tennis complex.

Phase 1 of the project will cost an estimated $1.4 million, said County Commissioner Richard Lee.

Soil testing has already been completed for the area, Lavender said. Phase 2 will end with this week's gatherings of the Master Plan development.

Project funding will come from taxes paid by city and county residents. While the County applied for grants for the project, none were received, Pritchard said.

When completed in January, the Master Plan will provide direction for passive park enhancement, recreation efficiency, cost projections, operational improvements and future needs assessments. The County will then send out and place bids, and completion time for the park should be three to six months from bid acceptance, Lavender said.

The facility will be at one end of the industrial park, which is one mile from the Hahira exit off Interstate 75.

A meeting was also held Thursday at the same time in South Lowndes County at the Lake Park Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center, 5208 Jewel Futch Road.

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