With the help of several young local athletes, Dawson County officials cut the ribbon on a series of new projects at Veterans Memorial Park last week, officially opening the county’s new Bowen Family Pavilion and multi-purpose sports field.
At a ceremony held at the park on Tuesday, March 9, county officials praised the newly opened projects, touting the effort as a much-needed renovation to one of the county’s oldest and most beloved parks.
"Building a big brand new park at times is great, but there's just something about an old park to a community and putting a new face on it is really really special," Dawson County Parks Director Matt Payne said after the ceremony.
Once known as Dawson County Park, but renamed Veterans Memorial Park in 2007, the park, located off Hwy. 9 N in Dawson County, has grown greatly over the years thanks to renovations made possible through the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and through land donations from community members.
According to Payne, the projects which were officially opened last week were only possible due to a large donation of land which was given to the county by the Bowen family years ago and SPLOST VI, which was approved by voters in 2014.
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According to Payne, the projects which were officially opened last week, were only possible due to a large donation of land which was given to the county by the Bowen family years ago and SPLOST VI, which was approved by voters in 2014.
In terms of what the new projects add to the park and offer the community, Payne said that the two projects were all about maintaining the quality of life that sets Dawson County apart and continuing to look for ways to expand what they offer the community.
"Dawson County is about quality of life and we just wanted to do something like this to help that quality of life come up," he said. That's what citizens deserve, especially in a tight-knit community like this, that grew up at this park."
Speaking to a gathered crowd at the ceremony, District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett said that like the ribbon cutting that took place at the county’s new Fire Station 8 just a few weeks ago, the opening of new projects at Veterans Memorial Park was a great day for Dawson County.
"We are blessed in this county, we really are," Fausett said.
Speaking from his own experiences growing up active in the parks system of his hometown, District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines said that beyond just looking nice, investments in park projects can have a ripple effect across the whole community.
Gaines said that kids who are active in the parks system have less behavioral problems, while adults who engage in healthy lifestyle choices promoted by the parks system are generally healthier and less taxing on local medical and emergency services. In his mind, tax dollars used for park projects are dollars well spent.
"A lot of people overlook investments we make in park and rec. and they may not engage in our park and rec., so it's not important to them. But to the kids that grew up in our community, it's their world and it's their life," he said. “So it makes an impact that ripples throughout our whole community."
Payne said that Dawson County parks, which already see a lot of use, have seen an even larger boost over the past year. And with these new program offerings, facilities and more projects on the way if SPLOST VII is approved by voters this week, Payne said that they are confident that community residents are getting the quality of life they deserve.
"Our numbers, even with COVID, are growing each year. We're at about 10 to 15 percent growth from what we were pre-COVID," he said. "For a community like this, that's big."