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Here’s what changes and improvements to War Hill Park could be included in a proposed long-term master plan
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Pond and Company representative Brad Jones addresses community members during a May 10 public meeting about War Hill Park. - photo by Erica Jones
Dawson County’s War Hill Park could be receiving changes and improvements in the coming years including improved campsites and hiking trails, according to a proposed long-term master plan for the park that was presented to community members during a May 10 public meeting. 

The story continues below. 

War Hill Park is a recreation area that Dawson County manages and operates in keeping with a long-term lease with the Army Corps of Engineers. Currently, the park includes a boat ramp, boat trailer parking, a day-use area with a beach front, 14 campsites without utilities and a comfort station or bath house. 

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Dawson County Parks and Recreation Director Matt Payne addresses community members during a May 10 public meeting about War Hill Park. - photo by Erica Jones

Currently, there is no existing approved long-term plan for the park, Brad Jones with Pond and Company, a Georgia-based multi-disciplinary design firm, explained during the meeting. The proposed master plan presented on Wednesday is a scaled-back version of a proposed plan that was presented before, taking into account feedback from community members and residents of the War Hill Park area. 

The proposed plan, Jones explained, includes potential projects presented in three phases. Ideas in Phase 1 could be accomplished in the next five years, Phase 2 could be accomplished in the next 10 years and future phases could be accomplished in 20 years or more.

Phase 1, as presented during Wednesday’s meeting, includes improvements to the existing campground, including adding utilities to the campsites, reconstructing areas in the campground and the shoreline that have been damaged by erosion, adding improvements to the host site, adding hiking trails within the campground and adding a sliding entry gate with an electronic keypad for campers arriving after hours. Phase 1 also proposes improving the existing hiking trails, including adding signs to better mark the pathways. 

Phase 2 could include improving the courtesy dock and adding a kayak and canoe launch, adding a small playground and picnic shelter to the day use area, refurbishing the beach and improving ADA accessibility,  replacing the fishing pier, adding a boardwalk bridge and constructing a maintenance facility. 

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Proposed additions to War Hill Park could include improved campsites, added pioneer campsites, a kayak and canoe launch and a boardwalk bridge, among other project ideas. - photo by Erica Jones

Future phases further down the road could include replacing the park’s comfort station or bath house, adding a new hike-in pioneer campground in the northern area of the park and adding an environmental education center geared toward school groups and small private gatherings and allowing for a potential kayak rental area. 

Several residents of the War Hill Park area were in attendance at the public meeting, and several of them spoke up with questions or concerns about the future additions and improvements to the park, including voicing their concerns about increased traffic on War Hill Park Road and about disturbing the park during the construction process. 

Several local residents also voiced their opinions that this scaled-back proposed master plan will be closer to what they want than the original plan presented in the past, adding that improving the park is much preferable to developing the land into something else. 

“It would actually be worse if a developer took over the park; at least as citizens we do have some sort of say in our local government,” one resident said. 

“This is a lot closer to what we really would like to see, and we hear you in that we don’t want a lot more traffic on that road,” Parks and Rec Director Matt Payne added. 

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Pond and Company representative Brad Jones addresses community members during a May 10 public meeting about War Hill Park. - photo by Erica Jones

All of the projects in the master plan would not have to be completed should the plan be approved, but rather the county could choose later on down the road to complete only some of them. 

“From the standpoint of us doing the master plan, we don’t have to do everything that’s here,” District 4 Commissioner Emory Dooley said. “If we think we might ever want to do something it’s cheaper to put it on there now that it would be later on down the road, but there’s nothing that holds us to make us do it. We can do deletions from it easier than we can do additions to it.” 

And the master plan is more of an overview than it is specific details, Jones added, so if it is approved and residents have questions or concerns about a specific part of it they can contact their county commissioners to voice those opinions. 

“It’s up to you as the citizens to contact your commissioners and work on the individual project and say ‘we don’t like that part of it’,” Jones said. “But it’s better to go ahead and have it as a part of your plan, that way you can work to decide to do it in 10 to 15 years. Each little project is a small increment of it.” 

In order for the proposed master plan to be fully approved, it will need to go through several further steps. First the plan will be updated and finalized to go before the county’s board of commissioners, and the board will vote whether or not to adopt it. Should the county adopt the plan, it will go before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for approval through a process that also includes an environmental assessment and a public comment period.

DCN will continue to follow the progress of the proposed master plan for War Hill Park.