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Board talks of taking a stance
May hear from public on park
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Officials are considering a series of public hearings to gauge interest in a park and proposed reservoir in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area.

Dawson County Commissioner Gary Pichon has been talking about his dream for a grand park as long as he's served.

"I'm thinking about this not only to conserve the land, but as a tourism industry for our county," Pichon said. "I see this is an engine of economic growth if we do this correctly."

The 10,000-acre tract is owned by the city of Atlanta, which originally acquired it as a possible site for a second airport.

While the possibility of building an airport has not been ruled out, plans lately have turned to water.

The Etowah Water and Sewer Authority has proposed the site be used for a 2,000-acre reservoir that could ease regional water issues.

According to the authority, the Shoal Creek project could provide as much as 100 million gallons of water per day that could be sold to Atlanta and other nearby governments.

Pichon, who'd like to see the remaining acres conserved for recreational use, took the issue to his fellow commissioners last week, asking them to consider taking a stance.

"Do we want a reservoir? Do we want a park?" Pichon asked. "And then, what is the mechanism to achieve those things given the current financial areas that we are in?"

Pichon suggested holding public hearings over the next few months to measure the public's interest.

"We might hear some things we do not know and maybe didn't think about," Pichon said.

Chairman Mike Berg said the commission would most likely also hear from those who have vowed a legal fight if the reservoir plan proceeds.

Opponents contend damming the Etowah River at Shoal Creek for a reservoir would endanger several fish species.

The dam could also disrupt river flows to areas south, opponents have said.

"I'm all for having the Dawson public tell us what they think, but I'd be concerned that we'd hear from more than just the Dawson public," Berg said.

Commissioner Jimmy Hamby agreed.

"I want everybody in the county to get involved in this, and let's make sure we do the right thing for our county," Hamby said. "I don't see the present owners doing ... anything the citizens of Dawson County will like.

"I don't care about the city of Atlanta. I'm worried about Dawson County."

Pichon said despite any position the commission may take on the matter, the future of the site is going "to have a huge impact on the people of this county one way or another."

"So my hope is ... if this board would speak in some formal way, it might give those outside entities that are looking at this, some idea of what it is we expect," he said.

Commissioners will revisit the issue during Thursday's meeting, at which time they could set public hearings.

The meeting is set for 6 p.m. in the G.L. Pete Gilleland Council Chambers at city hall.